After 11 years as a professional writer—and five with the Content Bureau—I’ve discovered an alarming fact:
Being a writer is not something one can just turn off at 5 p.m. It’s an all-encompassing desire to analyze and edit all the verbiage one encounters in daily life.
If I’m at a concert, play, or football game, I invariably end up proofreading the program. Now, I tend to go easy on high school choirs, especially if they don’t know any better than to print on canary yellow paper. But if it’s a college or professional event, I become visibly and audibly disgusted by typos, sentence fragments, and apostrophes used with simple plurals.
In shopping centers, I scan the signage for unnecessary quotation marks. Apparently, I’m not alone. There’s a whole blog devoted to this practice.
When the mail comes each day, I like to comb through business letters from banks, public utilities, and insurance agents and read the clunkiest sentences aloud to my wife. She’s always riveted.
I can’t stop.
And this obsession doesn’t just apply to the printed word. It affects how I hear speech, too.
The airport is always a good spot for flabby talk: “And a very pleasant good evening to you as we begin service for Flight 86….” Can a good evening be unpleasant? Can a pleasant evening be anything but good?
“This is your last and final call for flight 86.” Last and final? Had it been only my last call, I would have stopped to eat another Cinnabon.
Don’t even get me started on athletes. I once heard a football player say in an interview that today’s game was vindicative [sic] of his team’s talent. I suppose that’s like “indicative,” but with a dash of bloodlust.
And then there’s the overuse of certain adverbs: “Well, basically, we’ve just been trying to go out and play our game. We’re basically ready for anything that comes our way. And we’re basically proving ourselves every time we take the field.”
How ironic that this blog post appears in the Off Hours category. The truth is, for a professional writer there are no Off Hours.
So, now that I’ve shared my neurosis, what about you? Can you “turn it off,” or has your job become a part of everything you do?