I’ve always liked W&L’s practice of expecting all students, not just English majors, to write well. In our connected age, when internal memos can go viral for odd reasons and whatever goes on the internet, stays on the internet—more or less forever—your writing becomes an integral part of your image.
Of course, the fundamentals of writing matter. W&L honed my ability to identify and answer a question, to write pieces with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and to support my claims as needed. But I’ve always been especially grateful for the way my liberal arts education taught me to use my resources. When in doubt, look it up.
Certain words elude me; I look them nearly every time I edit a book. “Rearview” (as in mirror) would be one. I can’t be sure, so I look it up. It’s good business to be certain of spelling, especially when you work as an editor.
But any professional or businessperson can benefit from going that extra mile. (I just looked up “businessperson.”) Given the amount of money folks spend on creating a presence for their businesses, that’s common sense. We should be unwaivering (unwavering!) in our proofreading.
One business here in town has a lighted sign with letters at least eighteen inches high proudly advertising “Belgium waffles.” I shutter (shudder!) to think how many customers have pointed out that those waffles should be Belgian. And as much as I enjoy cruising each “isle” of our local grocery store, I bet they wish they’d proofread all those aisle signs. Be greatful (grateful!) for you’re (your!) education—I know my education keeps me from adding unwanted apostrophes to awkward plurals like “patios.”
Of course, it’s a fine line to walk. I don’t check friends’ emails or posts for errors; I’ve been known to email a typo or two myself. Given the sheer volume of material we produce in a day (and the erratic nature of tiny touch-screen keyboards), statistics dictate a few eras (errors!).
Still, information is the currency of modern times and language its conveyance. In any field, that means time and effort invested in your language will pay off in the long run.
Every spelling error in the above entry has been seen in real life.
Rosanne Cornbrooks Catalano, ’94, split her time at W&L between her English and Theater majors, making the occasional escape to the fun side of life. Now a career freelance editor, casual blogger, and creative poet-parent, she lives in Sarasota, Florida with her husband (Anthony, ’94) and two children. Links to her blog, editing network, and business can be found at her website, www.aboutnoting.com.
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