To Correct and Preserve

I'm an Engineer

Ahm also illitaret.

Being a member of the Grammar Police is not a pleasant thing at times. It can often be a curse, as it makes reading for pleasure  distracting and, sometimes, painful. I’m finding it also makes it difficult to write for this blog regularly because I’m too freaking anal about mistakes and how I say things. I’m seriously working on not caring . . . well, not NOT caring but not being paralyzed by caring . . . if you get my drift.

When I was working for Rocketdyne I wrote a blog post in response to the reality that many people who had a lot to share with their colleagues didn’t step up to the plate precisely because they were afraid doing so would expose them to ridicule or, at the very least, make them look less competent than they actually were. The fear was somewhat real because Engineers are notoriously lacking in overall English and grammar skills, as evidenced by the numerous t-shirts and coffee mugs available with the slogan you see here. However, my experience is blogging doesn’t require the same kind of attention to detail designing an auto, a microwave, or a rocket engine does. Unless, of course, you hold yourself out as a member of the Grammar Police.

Therein lies the rub. I do hold myself out as such and, in fact, am herein sharing a new business card I created to advertise and promote my services. The first iteration of it brought me a small amount of embarrassment because I used “ghost writing” instead of “ghostwriting”, the latter of which is correct. Careful research seems to show it’s correct to use either “Ghostwriter” or “Ghost Writer“, but “ghostwriting” is the only correct usage.  A friend of mine shared the graphic of my card and one of her friends immediately called me out on it. I thanked him profusely for his unwitting collaboration and immediately changed the spelling, after which another person suggested some design changes that made sense as well, so I once again edited the graphic.

I’m pleased with the results and want it known I do not hold myself out as beyond error or reproach. Most people are painfully aware their own writing generally contains errors they are virtually incapable of spotting because of their proximity to the subject of the text. I am no different, though I am pretty damn meticulous in reviewing nearly everything I write – including chat messages. Yes, I am a wee tad obsessive, but therein lies my strength.

I recently was required to read a novel; one which I will likely soon talk about at some length on these pages. In doing so, I asked the author if it was OK for me to make note of any errors I came across. I received the go-ahead and, although it had been read by quite a few others, I nevertheless came across a couple dozen small (but frequently distracting) mistakes. I even discovered a rather glaring error in continuity, which the author was glad to have me point out.

I am currently working with several authors and on several projects. I am looking for more business. If you or someone you know could use a little help polishing up their novel, blog post (one that requires a modicum of professionalism, that is), or even some simple promotional or marketing text, please consider running it by my discerning eye. I believe I can help more than you might imagine. BTW – Here’s the card I ended up designing and may even print out some day. If you spot an error somewhere, feel free to admonish me. I can take it.

Grammar Police Biz Card

One day the shield will read “To Correct and Preserve”

About Rick Ladd

I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining. Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence. I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind. View all posts by Rick Ladd

5 responses to “To Correct and Preserve

  • namerequired

    yawns… bandwidth wasted, again.


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  • Lisa Nason

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this particular post because you really “nailed it” for me. I’ve been employed as a Technical Writer for over 16 years. While I do not have a degree, I did complete a year of college. I’ve never considered myself exceptional with regards to grammar and spelling, but I do make it a point to verify anything that I am unsure of. I find the act of physically looking up a word’s spelling or meaning seems to help me retain that valuable piece of information for later use—which is one of the reasons I will never ask anyone how to spell something. For starters, they may unintentionally give me the incorrect spelling, but most importantly, I’ll never be able to improve upon my own spelling and vocabulary without going through the “leg-work” myself.

    As for the distractions from easily recognizing misspellings and grammatical errors while reading other published work, I have the very same problem. I cannot read through a magazine or novel without detecting at least a few spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors. I cannot even listen to the news without being keenly aware when an anchor uses the term “different than” instead of “different from.” (Plus, I must include those few individuals whom I run into from time-to-time who insist that “irregardless” is a word.)

    The part that really got me though was your comment about how meticulous you are, even with “chat” messages. I often respond to news articles posted online under the comments section. It takes me forever to articulate what I want to express, so I have this habit of typing my comments first in MS Word, or TextEdit. Doing so enables me to check over what I wrote prior to posting, and it helps me avoid the frustration of finally formulating a coherent thought, only to have it disappear due to an time-out issue or some other hiccup that comes from typing directly online.

    The biggest problem I have is with responding to other writers—specifically those self-appointed “grammar police” who are really good at what they do—because whatever confidence I have with my abilities as a writer, it fades away within a nanosecond when I respond to other writers.

    As for the “anal-retentive” aspect, I cannot even text someone without spelling out the entire word, or using apostrophes, commas, semicolons, and quotation marks. Talk about frustrating…


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