What I See When I Read Anything: An Editor Explained

Minor confession: Like many people, I check Facebook soon after I wake up. The little red notification indicator lures me with the hope that someone has left an interesting comment on one of my statuses or liked at least one of the many pictures of my dogs. Today is no exception. So, because of my Facebook curiosity, I’ve started my job (independent editor) before I’ve even changed out of my pajamas or had breakfast. (No one is paying me for this one, mind you.) But, there it is in my news feed: Someone wrote “I just love this kitten Apollo he lives in the multipurpose room, we adopted him.” I cannot ignore it—not on my life. No matter how groggy I may be, the part of my brain that drives my editing has snapped to life. As soon as I see the first error in that status and keep reading, my brain fanatically starts adding punctuation and changing words, rewriting the status as each new word registers. Now the corrected status reads: “I just love this kitten, Apollo, who lives in the multipurpose room. We adopted him.” Relief. Even though the real status will live on filled with errors, I have improved it, even if it never leaves my head.

Apparently it can be daunting being friends with an editor; multiple people have told me they’re afraid to write anything, for fear that I’ll tear apart their words. I can truthfully say that I have never done that. (It’s called tact!) So, I correct everything in my head—with my invisible pen on the invisible paper that will never become tangible to see the light of day. That’s just one status on one website. The day has barely started. I decide to turn on the morning TV news while getting ready, knowing it’s inevitable that I will hear reporters use words incorrectly and will see bulleted graphics on the screen with capitalization gone wild (“If a Passenger is in Distress, notify a Crew member immediately”). (Editor, editor, anywhere?)

Oh, and I bought this new face mask online, so I have to read the directions on the bottle’s label to know how long to leave it on. “Apply to dry Face, leave on face untill cracks appear.” Oh, no. Well, that just won’t do. Why in the world has someone determined that “face” is important enough to be a proper noun? (Hence the capitalization, which is only applied to one of the mentions of “face,” BTW.) Also, there’s an ugly comma splice staring at me as though it just doesn’t care. Don’t bring in a measly comma to do a period’s work! While we’re at it: Was there no spell check available at any point during this label’s life? Who dropped the ball and misspelled “until”? Finally, don’t even get me started on the ambiguity! “Untill” cracks appear in what? My face? I hope the writer means the mask, but I’m not so confident with that person’s competence so far! How hard is it to write “Apply the product to a dry face. Leave it on until cracks appear in the mask”? At least it’s filed away in my invisible, mental filing cabinet. Crisis rectified! I feel better. Still, maybe I should hold off on the mask and check the reviews again to see if anyone got any weird results thanks to the rest of the instructions.

Now, all that exasperation and mental turmoil happened much faster in person than it took to explain, but it was no less intense. (And no, there’s no off switch; I can’t unsee errors.) At last, after a few more steps that don’t involve reading, my morning routine is complete, and I’m ready for the real work. Come at me, you filthy, pathetic wannabe sentences! I. Will. RUIN YOU! Ahem. I mean . . . This is your friendly, peaceful Texas editor signing off and saying have a nice day.

Editor Amy