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Thursday, June 04, 2015

Help is Appreciated . . . But

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I am not perfect. I have never made any claim that I am. Thus I appreciate having people check my work. I am as prone as anyone to making typos, from the infamous to, two, too, and their, there, to the even more infamous "word not included that changes the meaning of the sentence" error, among others. So I appreciate having people look over my writing before it becomes more or less fixed in a published product.

Part of my job here at Amarillo Design Bureau, inc, is taking other people's submissions and editing them and formatting them. This includes scenarios, proposals, term papers, tactical notes, and, yes, articles. In many cases, if there is time, I like to send the edited and/or formatted copy back to the author to check. Sometimes the author will (on reading the edited copy) see a thought he wants to add. Sometimes the author will realize that I did not understand a point he was making, or the way he wanted a special scenario rule to work in  his scenario, or simply note that I have made one of the various blunders in typing that one can make and not noticed it. (Let's be fair to everyone here, proofing your own work is one of the hardest things to do because your mind knows you wrote something in a given sentence, and "sees" it even thought it is not there.) Calling me on my errors or misunderstandings does not bother me.

The problem is that I often get an article back from an author that says "here is a revised copy, I have made a few edits." This is an effort to be helpful, but when you get an article that (in an example of worse case) is a dozen pages long where someone has made a "few edits," you have no idea what has been changed. And you have no choice but to re-read and re-edit the entire article looking for those "few edits." The problem, you see, is that the author is still himself human, and in making those few edits might have made a mistake (see for example the "their, there" item above).

Something that should take just a few minutes to check becomes a whole afternoon's work re-reading a document that should be finished.

Again, to be fair, I regret that many of the (for example) battle group tactics articles are not sent by me with little notes that I changed this or that. But I am making gross over all changes, often changing the writers assumption that he is "not in command" but rather writing a series of suggestions to "he is in command." That is the tone we want for these articles and I have to make those changes and it affects every paragraph, and sometimes every sentence of ever paragraph. A short list of changes is just not really possible.

So if you get an article back from me to be checked, and you see a change to make, consider how hard it will be for me (or SVC, or Jean) to find your edit when you return the document. It is a lot easier for you to be proactive and mark the change some way than it is for us to search the whole document looking for your "one or two edits." You might colorize the text where you made the edit, or put it in a larger font so that it obviously stands out. You might send a change document that says "in the sentence beginning "The Borak will be easily . . ." the word "not" is missing, it should read "The Borak will not be easily . . ." (see what I mean about a missing word changing the meaning of a sentence?).

You could just put a couple of line breaks before an after the sentence you are editing (or the paragraph you are adding if you thought of something you wanted to add to your submission).

Really and honestly I appreciate the help, things are better with the input, but when (in a recent case) a dozen people send back articles sent to them for "review, comment, and correction" with the note "I have made a few edits" it finally reached the point where I ran screaming into the thunderstorm and did not come back until the next day.