Happy National Grammar Day! Given the nature of my job and background, I love that this day exists. While I still ask my colleagues about commas (which I tend to overuse) and capitalization on occasion, I’d like to think I have a decent grasp of the English language. A few people even appreciate that about me. That’s probably why I’m often asked to review/edit things written by my friends and family.
While I’m happy to oblige, I always have to think carefully about how much I’m going to throw myself into one of these editing favors. I sometimes wonder… How much feedback do they really want? Should I be brutally honest with them?
When a colleague comes to me with a communication draft I can go gangbusters—sometimes completely rewriting it. I can, because it’s my job. If there was an Extreme Makeover: Copywriting Edition, I think some of my transformations might qualify. I’d like to think I’ve become a pro at constructive criticism and tactful feedback on writing (unless the communication is accompanied by clip art). And just this morning I had to have a heart-to-heart with a colleague after an inexcusable punctuation error in a newspaper ad.
Personally, I’ve developed a pretty thick skin when it comes to editing (and specifically, being edited) because I know it’s just part of the business. I remember early in my first internship after college, my boss edited a press release I’d written. There was more red ink than black ink on the page and I was devastated. Here I was planning to build my whole career on writing and I thought I’d completely failed at this task.
But over time I learned that’s part of the process. We learn from mistakes. Plus, different people have different writing styles and sometimes we have to bend to those (while still standing up for solid strategy and other non-negotiables).
I often think back to that internship experience when I edit things for others. I don’t want my feedback to make them feel like they messed up. Chances are the intended recipient isn’t going to look at the writing with as critical an eye as I have been trained to do. So as with anything, considering the audience is important. This blog, for instance, is my opportunity to be more laid back. Most of you don’t care if I use commas correctly. And there’s no need for you to point out my grammatical errors because I don’t really care. And that’s a big deal coming from this perfectionist.
So thanks for humoring me (and Jen) by reading our random thoughts and giving us each a break from the eagle eye. And in turn, when I see you overuse exclamation points or use 10 words to say something that could’ve been said with five, I’ll probably just keep my mouth shut.