Those words send a shudder through my body. Not because I think texting creates two-dimensional human beings (though I am concerned about the next generation’s ability to connect face to face) and not because the posture assumed by a texter is harrowing for the neck (again, I worry about the cervical vertebrae of today’s young people), but because I’m an editor.
I know some people find texting to be a convenient and, as needed, surreptitious shortcut to communication. But when I text—and I try to make it a very rare event, indeed—there is nothing convenient, surreptitious, nor shortcut-ish about it. I’m simply incapable of the very conventions that make texting speedy. I cannot, for the life of me, forgo capital letters at the beginnings of sentences and proper nouns. Nor am I able to leave out a called-for comma. And periods? Forget it. I will not write a sentence that has no period at the end. How will anyone ever know I’ve ended my thought?
To make matters worse, I don’t have a smart phone. Yes, you read that sentence correctly, and it did have a period at the end. It’s true; I do not have a smart phone. I have a dumb phone. And I like my dumb phone (which used to be considered very smart, running on satellite towers and all). Thus I do not have a smart keyboard on my phone. I have a dumb keyboard (which used to be considered quite clever, one key pad being able to handle both numbers and letters; brilliant!). But texting on this dumb key pad . . . Not fun. Some of you may not even remember how that’s done, all you smart phone owners. You press the 4 three times to get an “I,” the 7 four times to get an “s,” the 3 two times to get an “e” . . . You get the picture. An editor standing head lowered (neck bent in an achingly awkward position) for a full fifteen minutes right in the middle of a busy supermarket, inserting all the periods from “special mode,” to let my friend know I’m running late.
A phone call would have been faster. (I don’t mind dropping capital letters when I speak.)
Barbara DeSantis, a colleague of mine from the Los Angeles Editors and Writers Group (LAEWG), has just written an insightful article for our LAEWG web site about rewriting. She includes a helpful, and humorous, list of writing Do’s and Don’ts. For a reality check on whether you really need to write that second (or third or ninth) draft, go check it out on our Write Angles page.
“Wipe that grin off your face,” I said. “I’m not working today. I can talk however I want.”
I was responding to a friend who loved to catch me mid-sentence as I committed grammar faux-pas. This time I had said who instead of whom . . . or maybe it was there’s when it should have been there are. In any case, it was my day off and I wasn’t in the mood to have my grammar policed.
The problem with being an editor is that one loses the right to make mistakes. People expect me to be perfect in my grammar, spelling, and punctuation . . . even when I’m not editing a book.
I can’t really take advantage of the relaxed cyber-atmosphere of all-lowercased letters and punctuation-free run-ons. Of course, I’ve been grammar-aware for so long, I don’t think I could let it all hang out if I tried. (You should see me trying to text . . . It takes me 15 minutes to send one message because I’m making sure all the periods and commas are in place.)
So . . . in light of this profession-appropriate perfectionism, you can imagine my dismay when I noticed yesterday that my second post, made on August 22, had an error not only in the first sentence . . . but in the first word! My perfectionism was slipping and I was only two posts into this new blogging enterprise. Grateful that my blushing couldn’t be seen across the cyber-waves, I quickly corrected the typo and hit “update.”
I suppose I had better get used to having “my slip show” if I’m going to play in this public sandbox. (Mixed metaphor, I know, but I’m practicing letting my hair down.)
Check back at a later date when I write more about perfectionism and the role it plays in Writer’s Block.
Nomi Isak (aka Nomi Kleinmuntz) is an award-winning book editor and writing coach. She has been the editor on more than 35 published books, and her clients include the J. Paul Getty Museum, Time-Warner AudioBooks, University of California Press, and numerous individual authors. She was the developmental editor on Illuminating the Renaissance (J. Paul Getty), which won the international Eric Mitchell Prize in 2004. She is also a writer herself and has been published in regional magazines. Currently she is at work on a novel.