Sunday, June 26, 2011

Grammar is just so passé?

One of the most annoying things about working with DH and BFB is that they can't accept the fact that they make mistakes and don't know everything. So, every time one of them f***s up, they have to pass blame or try to cover it up.

The flip side of this coin is that they LOVE finding fault with others. They will look and look for the tiniest things to nitpick about. Given that my job is editing - which is not an error free discipline - they can always find some minuscule thing to make a stink about. Never mind that I take articles that are badly written bullshit, full of spelling, grammatical and word-use errors and turn them into something that someone can actually read and understand and - at the very least - won't laugh at and think a 5th grader (or younger) wrote it. Nooooo, there is never any appreciation whatsoever for that; instead they will scan a whole magazine looking for the tiniest thing to pick about - like a set of mismatched quotation marks in some teeny tiny subtext the size of ant poop. But, when BFB's friend edited the text when I was on leave and left it chock full of errors of every kind (style, punctuation, grammar, spelling, blocks of text accidentally repeated, etc), they were so happy with the result and didn't notice a single error.

In fact, shortly after I got back, DH dragged me into a meeting with the new (at that time) Marketing Director (who has already been fired) to discuss how lacking I was compared to this new and supposedly 'professional' editor they used while I was on leave. I anticipated what he was up to, so I got a copy and quickly marked, on the first several pages of my copy of the magazine, all of the errors I could spot at a quick glance - which were many (Lord knows how many I would have found if I had gone through it with a fine-toothed comb like they do when looking for fault with everything I do.) So as soon as DH opened his mouth to discuss how much of an improvement there was in the magazine in the issue I didn't edit, I was ready. And it was amazing how he, suddenly, found all sorts of excuses for and reasons why someone might not notice a tiny error - these weren't even tiny errors, but never mind that. Luckily the Marketing Director was not convinced by DH and took my side. He told him he thought that I am quite a competent writer, and that maybe, if they think this new lady adds so much, they should retain her services (freelance) to help edit the magazine as no professional magazine has only one person writing or rewriting everything and editing it and proofreading it.

So the new arrangement was that this so-called professional was retained to help improve the magazine. Of course, this ended up making more of a headache for me. Miss KIA as I will call her, adds as many errors as she finds - maybe more. She is supposedly British but seemed confused about the spelling of the word 'centred' - and kept changing it to the American spelling 'centered' - to the point where she got me confused, since - after all, I am not British - and I had to look it up just to make sure I wasn't going out of my mind. The fact is that instead of finding real straggling typos and such to fix, she often doesn't notice those and leaves them intact, and only makes unnecessary changes to the text just to say she did something. After all, she doesn't want anyone realizing that her services are unnecessary. Usually, when she makes these changes, she introduces new errors to text that was actually error free before. When I catch these errors and try to fix them, BFB takes a fit and says "well, since she is the professional here, I think we should leave it the way she had it" - she puts a special snotty emphasis on the word professional. Of course anyone who has lived here knows that expert and professional are very loosely used terms in this part of the world. Just about anyone can claim to be an expert here - especially people from certain Western nationalities.

When I persist, BFB emails me the snottiest and bitchiest messages you can imagine. She is a typical passive aggressive, so she doesn't do most of her shit to my face. For example thanks to the wonderful editing skills of KIA, there was a sentence with no subject. By the time I saw it, it was already set in the magazine template, which meant I had to mark it by pen on the first printed draft. After I made my proofreading, BFB got her hands on the manuscript and took here big fat green pen and unmarked most of my changes and wrote "ignore" next to them. Then it came back to our section, and DH told me to look at it and "clear it up". I told him, "well she doesn't know what she is talking about, so there is no need to clear it up with her since editing is my job." But since DH doesn't respect me, he told me I should settle it with her. He told me this at 4:00 PM on a Thursday (end of the work week). So I had to take the manuscript home, and spend my weekend redoing all the work BFB had undone and then writing lengthy emails to BFB explaining the grammatical reason for the corrections.

Well, BFB couldn't understand many of the grammatical terms, I am sure, so she replied to only the one she thought she understood - the one about the sentence with no subject. Her email read something like this:

"Dear Desert

First of all language has moved on to the 21st century, not everything that our teacher taught us in grammar school in high school is considered as Bible. Nowadays, some words or styles are used for certain types of writing and are considered acceptable.

Starting a sentence with the preposition 'With' is not wrong.

Secondly, other writers use different styles in the way they write, that doesn't mean they are wrong. Following the old school of writing that you have to have noun, verb and prepositions arranged just so is passé.

I am not saying that we can be loose with grammar and their uses but sometimes a more modern style can be used. The write up about .... is not a serious piece of literature that every little sentence should follow the A,B,C, D rules of grammar.


Nowhere in my email to her had I told her that all sentences have to start with a noun. All I had told her is that a sentence must have a subject. I like the way she told me that grammar is passé. I guess that is what she tells herself to explain away the fact that she doesn't understand it.

I am well aware that a more informal writing style prevails these days, but nowhere (in any language that I have ever studied) is having a subject in your sentence considered passé.

My response was:

Dear BFB

I didn't say you have to start the sentence with a noun, and I didn't say that you can't start it with the word with. I said the sentence needs to have A SUBJECT, and this is not passe, and this does not change, no matter what "style" you use. I am not going to argue this further, because I am right. I don't appreciate the mocking tone of your message with the use of words like "passe". Once again, this is very aggressive and unprofessional. I am trying to do my job here. I sent you the explanation for the changes because DH requested that I explain any changes to you that I thought necessary.

I have wasted enough of my weekend re-correcting things you uncorrected. This is an unnecessary waste of my time, and I don't appreciate the tone you are taking with me when I am simply doing my job. I am sorry if you don't understand my corrections, as I gave the best explanation I could using proper grammatical terms. If you still don't get it, then I really don't know what to say.

Here are some examples of how you can CORRECTLY start a sentence with 'with'.

"With a smile, she turned around and walked away.

"With 25 years of experience under his belt, he is certainly the man for the job."

FYI, both of the options I gave (in my previous email) did not start with a noun, so quite frankly I think you are arguing for the sake of arguing. I, however, am simply trying to do my job, which apparently is a waste of time. I am not perfect, and I may not catch every little mistake, but I will correct the ones I do see.

Best regards,


I copied the local guy who is over DH on my reply - I had already complained to him about DH and BFB earlier - so that he would be aware of the crap I am dealing with.

I also went to her office to discuss this with BFB. Being passive aggressive and all, she couldn't even look me in the eye. She had read my email by that point and knew she had no grammatical leg to stand on, so all she could resort to saying was "Well I don't understand why after you have checked the articles ALL these errors still remain in the first place."

That really pissed me off, so I said: "First of all, these errors weren't there the last time I saw the articles. YOUR friend introduced them with her unnecessary changes. Secondly, why do you expect me to catch every typo error in one go when your 'professional' friend cannot?"

She had nothing to say. I also told her that I do not appreciate her interfering with my job.

That sure felt good.


.::Tuttie::. said...

I would have felt good. Have all your jobs been like this? I wonder if they saw the devil wears prada and fancy themselves Meryl Streep

desertmonsoon said...

Well, it is the same company I worked in before - so what do you expect really. Professional behaviour should start from the top and trickle down.

As awful as the character played by Meryl Streep was, at least she knew her stuff. It's even worse being treated this way by people who don't know jack shit. You can learn something from the Streep type character, whereas BFB and DH have nothing to add to help me improve - all they do is tear down and nitpick and make my job 1000 times more difficult.