What do you think I might point to as my worst work day … ever?
It wasn’t a hectic tech writing file with a U.S. government “Department of…” breathing down my neck, nor was it the time a boss with no writing experience sat at my desk to ensure I did everything properly. (True story. Yikes.)
Those came close, but the worst was … the ‘are’ day.
You read it correctly: the ‘are’ day.
I was ahead of schedule on a difficult project and looked forward to finishing it early. I needed a little time to relax.
Let’s show some action!
My project was an instructional book. Readers were asked to perform specific steps on almost every page, and making the instructions ‘active voice’ encouraged the necessary movement:
“You are going to want to flex your knee.”
“Flex your knee.”
‘Are’ is a good indicator of passive voice. We tend to write – and even speak – passively because it sounds friendly (as opposed to “Do this.”).
For the editor or proofer, though, it means examining the hundreds of ‘are’s – and other words indicating passive voice – to see which ones will stay and which sentences need a rewrite (meaning more cost to you if a professional reviews your work).
I headed out at lunchtime, noticing an odd message as the search box closed. What did it mean, ‘434 replacements’? Hmm.
After soup-n-munchies, I returned to the book and changed several items I’d tagged during my morning session.
This was before continuing my ‘are’ sleuthing. Big mistake, as you’ll see in a moment.
I began noticing weird sentences.
There were no ‘are’s in the book.
And. I. mean. n-o-n-e.
“What’s goin’ on?”
In my hurry to get to lunch, I tapped the wrong button in the search box. I told it to delete every ‘are’ in the book.
I think my temperature shot up to 200° for a moment. That was the ‘434 replacements’ note I’d glimpsed, earlier. I had to find those specific 434 blanks and examine each one.
There went my ahead-of-schedule.
When you do something like this, does your grandmother’s refrain of “Haste makes waste” roll around in your head, too? Grr.
As mentioned earlier, I’d made several changes to the book after lunch. My pre-eats copy did me no good. The mass deletion was not my last edit. I couldn’t simply UNDO to get back on track.
After performing the tedious rework, I read all one hundred fifty pages … again … before my proofer could place it on the revised schedule.
How’d it all turn out?
How long did it take, you ask? In Lean/Six Sigma-speak, 10 hours of my ‘non-value-added activity’ … because I got in a hurry.
Learn from me, Grasshopper!
Your Takeaway: Never use ‘hurry’ and ‘proof’ (or ‘edit’) in the same sentence, although I just did ;->.
Final Note: No matter our area of expertise, begin working on a new project immediately. When something gets in our way – and it will – we’ll still hit our deadline. This mindset saved me on this monster project. It can save you, too.