I was having a hard time titling this post because my mind blanked. I was going to title it “minutiae is my specialty,” but then I remembered that “minutiae” is a plural noun. “Minutiae are my specialty” made it sound like I was trying too hard (like those annoying people who insist on using proper grammar in every aspect of their speech), so I took advantage of one of the myriad uses of the comma.
Anyway, before I get too sidetracked while explaining my crazy thought process… the point of this post is that editing matters. If you think skipping editing in your quest for publication is OK and you can rely on readers to find errors after you’ve put your work out in the public eye, think again.* You cannot always catch your own errors, and if you do, you often catch them too late. (I’m sure you’ve had those terrible, stomach-dropping moments when you realized that you sent an email with a mistake in it just seconds after you actually hit “Send.” And as Murphy’s Law would dictate, it was most likely a very important email.)
Formatting minutiae matter, too. If you’ve ever picked up a self-published book and noticed funky line spacing, margins that are just a bit too wide, or copy that’s littered with extra keyboard spaces, then you probably won’t trust the author to tell you a good story as much as you would if she had paid attention to the formatting. Oh, it’s just an extra space. It doesn’t matter, the author might say. Nobody will notice. That kind of thinking is dangerous because it leads to dismissing so many of those little things that they gang up and overtake the work, making it appear sloppy.
However, the great big caveat is that perfection is nonexistent. In your own work, picking at the minutiae (or having someone else do it) is important, but it is equally important not to get too bogged down in it and know when to let go. As writers (and editors), this is a fine line to tread.
*And believe me, they will find errors after you’ve published… and they will never let you forget them. Best to edit before publication.
I have this old Pitman Shorthand book that used to belong to my mother, and it’s always fascinated me because the little symbols look like an indecipherable bunch of hieroglyphics. But I can see how it would be useful when your work consists of a lot of note-taking at rapid speeds.
Now we have computers that keep up with what we are typing as we are typing it, so it’s rare when a typist goes so fast that the computer has to catch up with her. However, there are still those phrases that you end up typing over and over again, so over time, you probably develop your own shorthand for those.
And there’s a tool called PhraseExpander to make it easier. I haven’t used it, but it sounds like it would be good if I ever wanted to avoid typing the same author queries over and over while I was editing someone’s file. You create a list of phrases that you use frequently, then set up keyboard shortcuts for them. PhraseExpander allows you to use these phrases in programs like MS Word, Notepad, Gmail, and more.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but it sounds like it’d be revolutionary for data entry or technical support staff who have to type the same thing multiple times. So instead of relying on handwritten symbols or even very fast typing, we have a friendly macro to do this tedious work for us.
Let me say this right away: I have never cared for Hemingway’s writing. Everything I’ve read by him has bored me to death. But the editing app that carries his name might be useful.
Usually I’m leery of editing apps and programs because I’m an editor, and there’s always the possibility that my job could be taken by a robot or a very smart computer. Then I remember that I am often correcting mistakes made by Microsoft Word’s grammar checker and programs like Grammarly, and I am reassured that my future is secure (well, so far).
The Hemingway App also tells you how easy your sentences are to read and whether you have any adverbs, longer words that could be replaced by a shorter word, passive voice, and so on. Like Microsoft Word, it also gives you a counter so you can see what you have in a given document. I’m guessing that the “Read. Time” thingy is how long it would take an average reader to get through the document, which is an interesting feature.
Would you use something like this?