Monday, February 7, 2011
All spaced out
I was walking back from the gym on my way to the bus this morning, when I saw a sign that caught my eye: "WATCH THE SUPERB OWL HERE" Intriguing! But then I realized that it was a sports bar, and somebody had put a space between the B and the O, which changed the original meaning quite drastically. The sign was from yesterday, when everybody was watching the Superbowl. Interesting what just a little change in spacing can do.
I was also reminded yesterday of the difference a little spacing can make in different words. For example, the words "now" and "here" when added together make "nowhere," the opposite meaning of the two words apart. A few years ago I read a wonderful little book called "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" and wrote a blog post about it, which I called "My inner stickler," illustrating what a big difference a comma can make in the description of a panda. I have a link to the book in that post, if you haven't read it and want a good read about grammar.
When I was working as an editor, it was difficult for me to read anything without a red pen in hand, so I could mark up an article and correct common errors. The proofreading symbols were deeply ingrained in me, and it's interesting to notice that I'm finally released from the need to correct everything. When I read another blog post that has grammatical errors in it, I don't even flinch any more, just feel it flow over me, I notice it but feel no need to get all huffy and upset about it. As a detail-oriented editor, I soon realized that a single reading of an article would not be enough to catch all the errors. I would have to clean it up, reprint it, and read it again. It often amazed me how many errors I had missed on the first read. And today, when I post something new, often Smart Guy will read it and point out a typo now and then. I don't even get my feathers ruffled! I guess I've moved far enough away from performance anxiety to be moderately relaxed about these things. That's real progress.
This is not to say that I'm now above it all, far from it. The other day somebody saw my business card and asked if I am available for possible editing work. Two feelings emerged: one, I knew I could make his project better and thought perhaps I should; and two, I was sure I really don't want to get back on that bandwagon. Once I begin to get into the details, I can't lay it down easily. My inner stickler is slumbering; let's not wake her up again!