Saturday, March 31, 2007

An Open Letter to Anonymous


Thank you for your interest in my work.

I assume you came to my blog through the link at the bottom of my Five-Dollar Words column, in which you noted some typos. The column, tragically, had been posted in its unedited version and not as the final draft it should have been. For that, I apologize. However, I really can’t apologize for the typos you caught on this blog. Aside from the fact that I consider this site "word play" and my efforts at the Independent "word work," I don't think anyone realistically expects a open-to-the-public blog for which I write for my personal benefit and no financial gain to be 100-percent typo-free.

I’m only recently a college graduate and therefore cannot afford a personal copy editor. Furthermore, though I enjoy writing and do indeed profess a love of words, I have a mental block when it comes to editing my own writing. If I pursue this line of work, it’s something I have to get over, even if doing so means slowing the process of publishing words in the effort to make sure they appear without any errors. But as it stands now, I mentally glaze over when re-reading something I just wrote — something, more often than not, that I spent a while working on — and don’t catch typos. My eyes see only the words I intended to write, and not the “the the” or the “teh.”

At work at the Independent, I have a sharp-eyed staff of copy folk and proofreaders backing me up and making sure that what gets printed looks polished. However, I also work as a news editor there and I’m usually the first person to read over a reporter’s article before it passes to the next level in the editorial hierarchy. I think I do a good job of reading my co-workers’ words and fixing the little mistakes — the kind the majority of writers make. But I can’t give my own work the same comprehensive once-over very well. Few can, really. Any news content that I write gets passed to another editor because their eyes can see the words more objectively than I can.

It’s fairly often that I have the people who read this blog — most of whom I know in real life — point out something that was written incorrectly. I appreciate it. The readers here are the second pair of eyes that I can’t afford. You made these kind of catches on several posts here, including "The Sacred Bumpkin,""Too Many Elenores" and "Gimmick Mountain." In the end, the errors are better off fixed.

However, I don’t understand why you felt such a compulsion to make the corrections in a mean-spirited tone. Why edit something to demean the author and not to improve the work? If you really lack any respect for an author, wouldn’t it be all the more insulting to leave the errors and let future readers notice them as well? You complained more than once that the presence of typos should indicate that I truly don’t appreciate words. I have to also object to that on grounds that typos don’t necessarily indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of language but rather the unchecked haste in which it was expressed.

This, I believe, is a major fault of writing in the online era: words being generated too quickly, too often and people reacting to them with a level of spite that only anonymity allows. I guess I will have to work on my end of it.

You got me, Anonymous. I make typos. (To this day, I can’t type the word “sworn” without accidentally typing “sword” first.) Because editing is an integral part of the writing process, however, I feel you made a mistake as well. A major responsibility of any editor is to respect the writer’s efforts. (Again, why bother to point out mistakes otherwise?) You were rude, either in an effort to make yourself seem better or to make me seem stupid. (Or both.) And while my mistakes might make me seem oblivious, yours make you seem malicious. I guess it’s a matter of opinion which of those qualities is worse.

By the way, in your haste to call me out on my incompetence, I think you may have actually made a mistake yourself.

In the post “Too Many Elenores,” you find fault with me typing “Elenore Gee, I think you’re swell” and then later “Elenore, can I take the time.” The point of the post was a little joke — downright tiny, some might argue — about how one can listen to the song and hear the various words following the name “Elenore” as odd surnames and still preserve the meaning of the sentences. (Elenore Gee, Elenore Nearme, etc.) The one exception, I felt, is the line “Elenore, can I take the time,” because hearing it as “Eleanor Can, I take the time” changes the sentence’s meaning too much.

But maybe you didn’t pick up on that because you were too busy scanning for typos.



  1. What a cockabilly.

  2. Tie Poh7:53 PM


    It must be very difficult thinking you're better than everyone. I'd be a nasty bitch too.

    In Nonymous's defense, you should be working harder to tighten up your writing style. Everybody should. In your defense, let me say that Nonymous sounds like an altogether objectionable person. I can't see what reasoning would lead someone to prove a point in a manner that repulses anyone listening.

  3. Well, thanks for that. In looking on this open letter, I feel I should clarify that I wasn't using my shortcomings as a self-editor as a free pass for error-ridden writing. I just was trying to explain why the mistakes were there. It's something I should pay more attention to and will harder to avoid.

  4. no one caught the "month" on the screen? jeeze Drew you really are a dweeb and an illiterate if you can't meticulously edit your past time, thank you Anonymous, champion of all that is holy and English