In the Community
Living in Rough Draft ModeAugust 30, 2017
A book I read tickled me to no end. It is called F in Exams: Complete Failure Edition, by Richard Benson. It shares true-life, but wrong, student answers to questions on quizzes, exams and other tests. It made me recall that editing software, including spellcheck is now available. It is not perfect, but it helps. Some of the students quoted in the book might have appreciated its availability:
“And at the end of the show we all sing Away in a Manager.” (As a manager myself, I find this a little frightening.)
“I luv J. K. Rolling, she is my heroin.” (Authors can inject joy into our lives, but generally a different kind.)
“In geography we learned that countries with sea round them are islands and ones without sea are incontinents.” (If a whole country is incontinent, it may soon have sea ‘round it.)
Being an editor is in my DNA. I typed and edited a chemistry textbook when I was in college, and earned my room and board through typing and editing for professors and students at 40 cents a page. Later, through my own business, “Wordsmith Enterprises,” I typed and edited a technical procedures manual for a nuclear power company, a personnel manual for an automobile company, and I was both a ghost writer (speeches and articles mainly) and an editor for many.
While I enjoy the work, the challenge is that it does take time. And time is a shrinking luxury these days. Editing software cannot do the job by itself, and in fact, those who have been burned by spellcheck – changing the spelling of something inappropriately – know exactly what I mean.
Here at the Community Foundation, the workload continues to increase, as do expectations regarding turnaround time. I’m sure we’re not alone in experiencing this drive toward the immediate. For me, it feels like I’m continually living in “rough draft” mode. While I’d love to have the time to read and re-read and edit the constant emails, letters and other documents I create, I just don’t. Unfortunately, after the fact, I sometimes find errors that embarrass me. I’m imagining that the recipients of the documents containing a misspelled word wonder at my professionalism. One of the students, when asked to DEFINE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT, wrote “When you get in trouble for not putting a capital letter at the start of a sentence.” OH, NO!
Obviously, I never want to offer something that is less than accurate. We often talk about “managing expectations” as a way to maintain our own sanity around workload and timeframes. Frankly, I think my own expectations are those that must be managed. Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” And someone with editing in their DNA can easily be guilty of demanding personal perfection—an impossible demand.
So, when you find an error, of mine or one of the many suffering from the speed of modern life, live generously. Offer forgiveness. And blame our current tendency to live in “rough draft mode.”
Denise K. Spencer
President and CEO