I makes mistakes, two

I’ve received some really nice letters this week about Sunday’s column on the death of Barry Butzer … and I really appreciate the feedback and kind words.

But I received an equal amount of criticism for a really poorly structured first sentence that would have given my high school English teacher a heart attack.

I just want to defend myself by saying a few things:
A) I’m human and I make mistakes. I know this is not a great excuse, but it’s valid. In addition to the million other things I do in a week, one of the more enjoyable things is my column. However, I don’t always have a ton of time to do it, and sometimes, going back and reading what I’ve written is done in haste. I tend to make a few mistakes because of that, but for every mistake I miss, I’ve caught about 25 of them (I write fast). So there.
B) I am not mentally slow (as one letter suggested), and I, in fact, did really really well on the English portion of my ACTs in high school. I take pride in being a pretty good grammar-guy, but going back to Point A, I make mistakes (you may even find a few in this post).
C) Being an editor is far, far more than actually editing. There’s writing, designing, meetings, planning, etc. etc. etc. … so as another reader pointed out, “This is all you do, you should do it right,” … well, that’s not necessarily the case. But I appreciated his/her suggestion that I have it easy.

If only I did.

I love my job, but one of the bad things about it is all my mistakes are out there for the public to consume and take pleasure in pointing out. I do it too … my wife and I “ha ha” when the crawl at the bottom of a TV newscast has something wrong. It’s human nature, I suppose.

So, grammar Gods … keep the found mistakes coming. While each letter does steal a little bit of my soul, in the end, it does make me a stronger person. A stronger, more vengeful person.



14 thoughts on “I makes mistakes, two

  1. Writing is a lost art. Seriously, how many people know when to use “boon” and when to use “boom”? Are they interchangeable? Besides, it’s hard to edit your own stuff. You know what you meant to write and when you read back over it, you process stuff in chunks, not in individual letters and words. It’s always fun picking apart someone else’s writing – Billy knows I do it every day here after the fact. On the flipside, it’s hard to be on the receiving end of it, but I can attest to the fact that you’re doing a great job! Now if you can just teach our reporters how to use an AP Stylebook…

  2. What everyone doesn’t know, is that I’m your toughest critic and my jaw nearly hit my keyboard when I read that first sentence…at which point I immediately emailed you. (Then felt terrible because, it appears, I wasn’t the first.)

    But the fact that anyone would suggest a simple mistake means you are slow or that you have an easy job makes my blood boil!!!! I will be happy to explain to anybody just how easy your job is every day!!!

    For what it’s worth, I think you are an amazing, talented, smart writer…and I know plenty of people who agree with me!

  3. Thanks … and I’d love for you to explain the ins and outs of my job. My wife knows more than anybody what it takes to be halfway decent at this job.

    That said, the criticism doesn’t get to me. Did anybody read the letter to the editor in today’s Herald, the one that suggests they raise us to be naive in East Texas?

    If I didn’t let stuff like that just bounce off me … I probably would be crying in a corner somewhere. Luckily, I find it amusing.

  4. Ditto on Bill’s comments. It is always easier to proof someone else’s work, as we tend to mentally complete omissions, overlook misspellings, and miss grammatical errors in our own work as it is re-read for the 36th time.

    ….that is why peer review and editors exist after all 🙂

    I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

    I write technical architecture documents in my current gig all day long, and every time I send one I think is ‘done’ out for review, it still comes back marked up to some degree.

    And no, ‘boon’ and ‘boom’…. as well as ‘brake’ and ‘break’ or ‘mute’ and ‘moot’…. I could go on and on…. are not interchangeable 🙂 That’s one thing I really enjoy about the English language though; it’s breadth and flexibility enables saying just what one means to get across if the time is taken to choose the right word.


  5. Let it roll, Billy. I think everyone who matters knows that you do exceptionally well at your job. Did someone really call you slow? I think it is uneducated people who would say something like that to anyone just for making a mistake. We all make mistakes.

    I don’t subscribe to the Herald, so I’m not privy to reading the letters to the editor. I’d be interested to read the one suggesting those raised in East Texas to be naive. What does being naive have to do with making a grammatical mistake anyway?

  6. The “naive” remark was made because I stated that our city council was not being racist because it won’t allow chicken coops in back yards (some say they’re being anti-Hispanic in doing so). So he called me naive and ripped me for bringing up bird influeza and such.

    C’est la vie.

  7. Well, we didn’t have any Hispanics or chickens in East Texas, despite the presence of Bo Pilgrims grossly sculpted head in Mt. Pleasant.

    Feed ’em fish heads.

  8. You know I really dislike people who have the compulsion to quickly criticize someone on a mistake by using demeaning words like you described. I will readily bet that any of those persons who wrote you calling you names would not be able to take similar comments towards their own work….

    I hate hypocrites.

    Lick your wounds then kick some butt.

  9. Mistakes can be fun. As a young architect, I had a secretary who wrote that a builder should provide “a reinforced concrete lentil” to support a wall over a new opening. Admittedly I am a vegetarian . . . .

    And mistakes can even lead to new discoveries.

    I’ve blogged on this, and concluded that one of our biggest risks is the risk of not taking any chances because we’re so keen not to make any mistakes!

    From my experience, the world of user generated content is all about sharing ideas out there, and waiting for the wisdom to pour in, and it does. We do have to have a bit of a thick skin as well though, for when we make mistakes . . . . .

    Url: http://catchthevision.wordpress.com

  10. We had a crazy weekend, and I didn’t have a chance to read your editorial until today. I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face. Yes, I noticed the error at the beginning, but I don’t understand how anyone could still remember that sentence by the time they get to the end of the article. It was so touching. Thank you for publishing it.


  11. I don’t know if I didn’t notice it or if, like Amy said, I completely forgot about it after reading the rest of the editorial and going through a box of Kleenex reading it….at any rate, I had to pull it up to see what all the fuss was about!!! OK, so it wasn’t the best example of proper grammar! Get over it, it is not like it is a thesis paper for a doctorate in English!!! In fact, I think that “some” editorial topics are actually more effective if written more like the writer thinks and less with the proper structure in mind! It just puts the editorial on more of a “let’s just have a conversation” level. That’s why I enjoy your editorials and actually many of those of your predecessor’s – they are like listening to a conversation! Keep up the good work and don’t worry about the grammar critics!!!

  12. Don’t you wish people were as quick to praise as they were to criticize? I loved the editorial (and I also cried). It was very touching and I was glad the driver took the time to write you and that you choose to include it in the paper.

  13. Ha-ha, a little trouble with the ol’ grammar, eh kid? 😉 Reminds me of the good ol’ days before e-mail, when I used to correct your grammar in those college letters containing our weekly NFL picks against the spread. And later, of the times when you let me know that my radio commercials stunk (and you were right, especially the one for the landscaping company with the jungle effects). Well, a note to all Billy’s readers: I can personally vouch for him that he is NOT slow — in fact, in high school, he once threw together a complicated English project just before class on the day it was due, and made a higher grade than the rest of us. Of course, “the rest of us” didn’t include any future Ivy-League grads, but still. Incidentally kid, which English teacher would your sentence have given an heart-attack, my mom, or Disturbyfill?

    And by the way, it’s “I write quickly”, not “I write fast”. It’s an adverb, puddin’-head. (Nyahh, psshht.)

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