I appreciate the importance of being careful in choosing my words. After all, I don’t enjoy being corrected—or receiving hate mail—any more than the next person.
The problem is when I don’t realize I’m not being careful.
At the National Fibromyalgia Association we are finishing up vol. 14 of the fabulously informative magazine, Fibromyalgia AWARE. I’ve reviewed each piece of the book (ads excluded) probably at least five times. But I don’t fool myself into thinking that means they are totally error-free. And in this matter, anyway, I have certainly been proven right. The most entertaining example of this is in one of our Letters to the Editor—a really good one that comments on an unexpected way the chronic pain disorder fibromyalgia can impact another area of health. In this informative and sincere letter, the writer made up a term for a health issue—could have been a typo, or could’ve been that she thought she had the term right. (Heck, I hear from patients all the time who have trouble spelling fibromyalgia, and they have it!)
The problem was that I evidently didn’t bother to look up this mysterious term, and so I didn’t correct it. Luckily, someone else in the office did. (And this is why we have several people review the layouts before we send them to the printer!)
That was bad. Here’s worse.
For another editing gig of mine, a very nice person turned in three (THREE!) really nice stories. Photos included. They required significant editing, but, after all, that’s what they pay me for.
I was pretty damn impressed with myself when I caught a nomenclature error. The writer used the name Angel Stadium in the piece.
Now, I call it Angel Stadium. But then I also refuse to call Irvine Meadows “Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.” I’m just stubborn that way.
But in print, accuracy is everything, and stubbornness counts for little. So, feeling very proud of my sports knowledge, I changed Angel Stadium to Edison Field and finished editing the piece.
Imagine my surprise when I received this letter:
“Come on! Where have you been the last several years? The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play baseball at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Edison Int’l terminated its sponsorship of the stadium several years ago!”
My first thought was, “Really?”
My second thought was, “Who has that kind of time, to write cranky Letters to the Editor about baseball stadium names?”
Today I looked it up, and the cranky writer is right. And to make things even worse, I discovered I didn’t change the name right! (It used to be Edison International Field.) Why, you may ask, didn’t I look up the stadium name in the first place, and save us all a lot of angst? Well, why would I look up something I already knew? (There is still much I have to learn about editing. Obviously.)
But I did feel better when I received this hilarious note from one of my trusty freelancers. Confusion comes to us all, I guess!
She had just turned in a very nice piece about a successful transitional family shelter, and was responding to a note from me about the niceness of the piece.
Thanks, I appreciate that!
The run-up to the piece was sort of amusing, as I had only skimmed the assignment description before finding myself making small talk with some elderly nuns one morning.
Me: ...So yeah, I'm writing about this shelter—X House.
Nun: Oh, I know that shelter! I used to work across the street from it. It's a men's shelter--
Me: [I thought it was a women's shelter, hmm, no problem, I can write about a men's shelter, too.] Oh, really?
Nun: --men with AIDS.
Me: What? [WHAT?!]
Nun: (louder) An AIDS shelter for men.
Me: (Trying to act cool) Ha, ha. Elisabeth didn't mention that. [What? Elisabeth didn't mention that.]
Other nuns: Oh, that's wonderful. Tell us more.
So there I sat for the next 45 minutes—trying to recall everything I ever knew about men, specifically men with AIDS—before I could get home and do a quick Google search on this alleged men's shelter. Geez.
The moral of the story? Hmmm... how about, "No one knows anything, and anyone who thinks he knows something is totally deluded." (It can't be just me! --Right? It's not just me?)