Sunday, August 21, 2011

I am not a professional, but I am not unskilled...

Throughout the years of my life I have become increasingly aware of typos and poor English in many areas. I could understand when a foreigner couldn't speak right, or when the grade school children wrote their 'R's backwards; but when I got into high school and found that my peers still couldn't read fluently (the extent of their reading skills was the ability to sound out letters; poorly) or spell anything I began a very long and annoying path of constant aggravation for the illiteracy of the people around me. Though my handwriting is far worse than theirs, I can spell almost every word in the vernacular of American English.

It came to my attention that I am a grammar nazi during the fall of 2009. I had just graduated high school and began college studying for business and psychology. While reading the fascinating aspects of psychology I noticed a typo in the textbook. It was an obvious typo as the letter the word was spelled wrong with was adjacent to the letter it should have been on the keyboard; what aggravated me was that the typo wasn't a word in the English language, and whatever idiot was typing up the book likely didn't see the spell-check underline their mistake.

This irritation caused me to start noticing typos everywhere I went. On restaurant menus, job applications, teachers' whiteboards, legal documents, and even in professionally edited books! I couldn't stop noticing them. Every typo, every violation of English grammar (that I knew of), stood out like a turd in a sugar bowl. It more than bothers me to see a typo, run-on sentence, or lack of capitalization; it creates a burning irritation in my eyes and hands. It's the kind of sensation that could only occur from some kind of psychosomatic disorder. I've always figured myself to have a mild case of OCD; especially for typos. Every time I find one in a professionally edited book I have to find the nearest pencil/pen/marker/white-out and fix it before I can move on! I count myself fortunate to not understand every rule in the English language or else I wouldn't be able to leave the house.

Of course, I am by no means a professional at what I do. I don't have a fancy PHD in English Composition; I barely have any credentials to my name. However, I prefer to look at things from a different perspective. You can hire a PHD in art to paint a portrait for thousands of dollars; or you can hire an artistically gifted youngster to paint the same thing. Granted, the youngster knows nothing of art in the scientific context, but their natural talent to copy what they see onto canvas makes them almost as good as the PHD; and they aren't going to rip you off on the price of their work (while they're first starting out). I also liken the same analogy to musical artists. Some of the artists I really don't like actually have degrees in music; but most of the artists I do like haven't ever had a single instrument lesson in their lives!

My ultimate point, when reduced to its simplest terms, is that my work is a 'suitable' replacement for a professional editor. Professional editors are notorious for charging around $2000 to edit your book; and if your book is simply too crappy to survive on the market then that is $2000 well wasted! And yet all that you're paying for is their 4-6 extra years of studying the English language. Had we paid attention throughout our 13 years in public schools we honestly wouldn't need that big fancy degree to be a professional editor (we've spent more time studying English than a student spends earning a PHD); in fact, the mere notion of a degree in your own native language seems rather pointless. Of course, it's prudent for an aspiring scientist like myself to learn the proper way to write professional reports; but is any of that really prudent when editing a fun work of fiction? I think not.

So, with that in mind, is being an obsessive grammar nazi my only skill? Most certainly not! I am a natural problem solver. The only problem I can't solve is how to begin and end a story or song. However, I've found that if there's a basic idea for something I can spin it into something infinitely amazing. I am currently co-authoring a friend's book and am personally responsible for the majority of the lore; but the plots all came from her. So, to that extent, anything I read I can improve on similarly. I'm good at spotting errors in other things as well, such as others' social situations and plot-lines; though you only need to worry about the plot-lines. I can spot holes with decent efficiency and am very good at figuring out ways to fix them.

So, in conclusion, you don't need someone who will overcharge you with knowledge that barely applies to your work; you need someone who will make your work understandable in order to avoid the bad reviews. Hiring an English professor to edit your fictional story is like dropping a nuke to eliminate a gopher infestation! It's total overkill. All you need is to have an uneducated grammar nazi like myself look over your work before you submit it to the general public (which can't use proper English anyways). See the advantage of using an amateur editor for your indie book?

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