Monday, January 18, 2010

Meditation on My Other Job

Some of you (by which I mean the 1.2 people that actually follow this blog--and my ego thanks you for that) may or may not have noticed that I haven't updated much recently. This is not because I haven't been doing things worth noting (of course I have, everything I do is noteworthy--but I digress) but because my time has been taken up by my Other Job. By which I don't mean "mother," because that seems to be more of a state of mind rather than an occupation. I mean, there are any number of mothers and fathers out there who (unfortunately) aren't fulfilling their theoretical duties as parents. I see them in the library all the time. However, I digress!

Those of you who read all about how I became a Librarian-with-a-capital-L might recall that I spent some time as an editor and technical writer. I am here to tell you that that phase of my life is actually ongoing, and I adore it! Every year for the past many years, I have had the opportunity to edit the conference proceedings for a non-profit organization (and old employer of mine) with an entrepreneurial focus. Hundreds of pages of papers, written by engineering professors (this can be scary, if you haven't had the joy of reading works by scientists) and entrepreneurs, which must--after my careful ministrations--be presented as one unified, carefully formatted whole. Heaven! As you can see from my recent Twitter updates on the subject, addressed to fictional Engineering professors who are making my life difficult, I do have a very enjoyable time:
Engineering professors: It is OK to use commas. And periods, esp. to break up 7-line sentences. Also, I *hate* the expression "follow-on."

Engineering professors: It is really OK to pick a tense. Ideally past or present. It would also be fine to write headings that make sense.

Engineering professors: Not everything has to be written in passive voice.

Engineering professors: It is only polite to standardize HOW YOU SPELL THE LAST NAMES OF AUTHORS YOU CITE so I don't have to waste my time.

Engineering professors: Please don't use words like "inhibitory," they make my brain hurt.

Engineering professors: I will let you keep your ridiculous acronyms, since you seem so attached, but you are going to have to CITE properly.

You just had to go and cite an international dissertation, didn't you?

Engineering professors: *sigh* feel free to use an "s" to make things plural when you are talking about more than one of that thing.
And so on, for thirty papers or so. I don't know when I started to love editing things. Maybe it was inherited from my mother, herself a consummate editor? The first time I did it professionally was when I spent a brief time in college working for the Writing Center, helping my classmates figure out how to put sentences together. I've edited legal papers, curricular materials for grade schools, computer software manuals, brochures, any number of my spouse's undergraduate and law school papers, and of course every misspelled and extra-apostrophe-laden sign that I have ever come across. I much prefer editing to writing things from scratch, and most things that I do write never see the light of day because I am continually tinkering with them. This is not to say that everything I turn out is perfect and polished; I am as susceptible to typos and (particularly) rambling as any writer, especially here when I am pretty much writing to myself. But I confess that I do re-read my blog posts an undisclosed number of times before hitting "publish," just to make sure that I am presenting something that I feel comfortable with. So, if anyone needs another pair of eyes to review something, feel free to send me a message, and I will get out my colorful (not always red!) pen.

Now I suppose I'd better quit thinking and get back to work.


Danielle E. Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danielle E. Brown said...

(Whoops... posted that last comment too soon!)

As a (former) copy editor myself, I grinned (and felt nostalgic!) reading your notes to the Engineering professors. It always pains me a little to see someone ignoring "minor" details such as using an "s" when referring to something plural... ;o)