Friday, October 29, 2010

The Total Perspective Vortex

This morning Trent asked me to edit a paper for him. I was happy about this because, as an English major, editing other people's papers is the only really excellent and useful skill that you gain. I am a pretty zealous proofreader, and it used to be that I would frequently hurt people's feelings in my zeal. Luckily, Trent is a good sport, and his pride can stay intact even in the face of red ink.

The problem mostly arises from differences in approach to papers and editing. When I take my paper to someone for editing I want them to rip it to pieces. I want weaknesses in my argument ferreted out, underdeveloped connections exposed, grammar mistakes eradicated. I want the editor to burn my paper to the ground so that from the ashes will rise a new and more fabulous creature. Basically I want to get an A.

My mistake is in assuming that everyone wants their paper to be besieged by questions, ideas, and comas. Most people who bring me a paper don't want me to do that at all. In fact they see each red mark as a personal affront to their intelligence. Sometimes, after I edited a paper, the writer would look at the red marks and sadly ask "Wasn't there anything good in it at all?" which would send me reeling. (Also, it made me feel like a big jerk.) "Of course!" I would say "All the things that are not red are good!" This was meant to comfort the writer, but it never really did. I even tried writing encouraging comments like "Nice connection!" and "This is a really good thought, I like how it is tied in." but they were not helpful because the writer just looked and saw more more more red ink.

I have come to decide that there are three different kinds of paper writers, and they want three different kinds of paper editors.
There are people like me, who want their paper edited by a teacher type. Their primary objective is to get an A, and they do not care how much red ink they have to go through to get it. These people will be really annoyed if you read through their paper and say, "That was pretty good, I wouldn't really change anything."
Then there are the in-betweeners who want an A, but they don't really want you to criticize their paper too much. They want their paper edited by a Mom type. You can fix the grammar, and make at most one suggestion about the content, but don't push your luck or they will get offended and never ask for help again, and probably start hanging out with the wrong crowd and staying out after curfew.

Lastly are the people who say they want an A, but actually they would rather get a lower grade and not be exposed to any criticism. They want their paper edited by a cheerleader. For this kind of person your best bet it to just make sure they spelled their name right, look over the paper (but not too close because you might accidentally see a stray apostrophe that will send you into fits, and thus blow your cover) then give them a big smile and say "Wow! That was great!"

So just so everyone knows, I am happy to read over your paper for you, really I like to do it! It would be really helpful though, if you could tip me off about which kind of editor you would like me to be. I would like to stay friends!


Haley! said...

It's soooooo true!!! I think I want a #1 type because my teacher handed me my paper with no marks on it at all! I knew it wasn't my best, but he didn't help at all! :) haha

Clairice said...

hahaha! I think I am kind of in between the first and second one! I like to be told everything that needs improvement, and then everything that is really good... plus I would like my editor to give me a free cupcake! ;D

Melanie said...

I'm totally #1. I went through all of high school writing one paper hoping for critcism but having the teacher realize I could write decently and then never put thought into any of the rest of my grades. I hated it, so when I got to BYU I looked out for the most ruthless English teacher I could find. In her first day of class she said she was going to be mean and the class would be hard and if you wanted to leave then go. I think 5 people got up and left. It was in my top 5 favorite classes at BYU. Finally a challenge!

Sonya said...

At 3am the night before it is due, I want a mom type.
When I somehow start writing the paper early or on time, I want a teacher type.
Both times I want a cupcake.

Karen said...

Laughing so hard at this! I have always been WAY brutal when proofing papers! Joel finally just quit asking me to do it. :(

McRachie said...

Haha Karen, I'm working a piece of writing right now. Maybe I will give it to you so you can give it a baptism by red ink ;)