Thursday, May 14, 2009

Classical Commas, Complete Sentences

Words are very important in my job as a writer and editor. I am still a novice, and I learn something new almost every day. Being an editor reminds me what it means to learn classically.

It starts with the basics. Like every job, editing has its own vocabulary (grammar). What is a dangling modifier? How do you conjugate the verb "to lie"? I have to know how parts of speech fit together to form sentences; sentences, paragraphs; and paragraphs, documents.

I also have to organize my knowledge (dialectic) into priorities as an editor: if there is a problem with the big idea, fixing commas can wait. Is it okay to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction? An editor should know if there are exceptions to the rules. Asking "what if?" is a big part of the process.

Most editing assignments require more than technical knowledge. The editor must put the rules and the questions to work (rhetoric). How do I preserve personal style while making something readable and precise? How do I communicate with the author about strengths and weaknesses? If I'm working with a student, I need to explain the concept instead of simply making the change.

Along the way, I realize just how much I have to learn. We all need a dose of humility from time to time, right?

...because everyday adventures can be classical opportunities too...

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