The lighter side of editing

The lighter side of editing

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mantra Therapy for Those Who Edit Their Text Messages

Who edits text messages? Who shrieks in horror when they realize they’ve just hit Send on a text with a misspelled word or—gasp!—without a comma before a conjunction joining the final element in a series of three or more items?

Silly questions.

I do, of course. And if you happen to be an editor or anyone else who is careful with words, I bet you do too.

The burden of pathological correctness

When words are your life, people expect you to be “on” all the time. They expect your words—spoken, written, e-mailed, texted—to be the right words, in perfect order, properly punctuated. It’s kind of like being a comic and having everyone expect you to be hilarious at all times. This is what I call the burden of pathological correctness. It’s hard to relax, let your hair down, spell stuff wrong, forget about punctuation. You always, always, always take the time to spell words out completely and insert apostrophes where appropriate. You don’t write Gr8! or dont tell mom. It’s always Great! and Don’t tell Mom.

As I said, it’s a burden.

It’s just a text. It’s just a text. It’s just a text.

One way to lighten the burden is to remember that a text message is an ephemeral wisp of a thing that barely even exists. It’s here and then gone, deleted, forgotten. No one will remember that you texted your significant other to “pickup milk, bred, & mangos.” But you’ll know. You’ll remember.  And so will the FBI if they have reason to hack your phone. “Aha! Two misspelled words, and you used a comma with an ampersand! You know what the penalty is for impersonating an editor? Huh, buddy?”

That imagined interview may be a bit dramatic, but that’s what it can feel like when you accidentally send a message that is somehow wrong. You want to pull it back and fix it all up before sending it out into the world again. You start making up excuses: “My thumb slipped.” “Who can see the letters on that little screen?” And everyone’s favorite, “Damn Autocorrect!”

But what you need is not a way to retract a misspelled message, nor is it another excuse. What you need is a mantra. Like this one:

It’s just a text. It’s just a text. It’s just a text.

Recite this to help yourself relax whenever you’re composing a text message (and by the way, if you “compose” your texts—like I do—boy, do you ever need this). Then just hit Send. The bad news is, you’ll send more texts with mistakes in them. The good news is, you won’t care. Much.
First, meditate on your mantra. Then hit Send.

A multipurpose mantra

People have told me that they proofread every text message they send to me because they worry that I’ll judge them if their texts contain errors. I feel two ways about this. First, there’s some sadness that friends and family feel they have to somehow guard their words around me. I’m really not a judgy sort of person…  Well, I’m not too judgy, not about little things like texts… Okay, I am judgy, even about texts, but I keep my judgments to myself (it’s not like I’m going to send back a corrected message; haven’t done that in months).

My second feeling about people editing texts is “Yay! Less dreck in my life!” I never say that out loud, though. What I say is, “Oh, you don’t have to do that. Who cares if there’s a little typo in a text?” Unfortunately, people think I’m honest, so some of them take me seriously when I say this. The result? More mistakes in my received messages.

Fortunately, the texting mantra works just as well when you’re on the receiving end of an error-filled text.

It’s just a text. It’s just a text. It’s just a text.

Don’t we all feel better already?

Photo credit: Stock images from GraphicStock.

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