Recently several blog readers emailed to alert me to an error on my blog page.
One reader even sent a very cute photoshop reminder:
Well, harrumph harrumph I replied. That's a joke. Shark? Fin? Get it? Get it??
Well no they hadn't.
Which reminded me of a recent conversation I had with an author who was dealing with much the same kind of problem in the editorial process. The reader of the manuscript was "correcting" a lot of things the author had inserted on purpose. Yes they were "mistakes" if you want to be rigid about these things, but this is art not math and sometimes one plus one does equal three.
At the start of my career I was guilty of some of that thinking to be sure. I assumed that words or sentences that were "wrong" were mistakes. So I "fixed" them. It took me a while to realize that sometimes those weren't mistakes, those were style.
I vividly remember "correcting" a word on Steve Ulfelder's second or third manuscript some years back. Just as I hit the delete key, I thought "hey, I better look that up." Sure enough, it wasn't a mistake, it was a word, and the exact right word.
Which brings me to the point of this blog post: the reason you work very very hard to get everything right is so when you "don't"--when you break the rules on purpose--your reader has confidence in you and knows to look up the word, or admire the style (or not!) and NOT to reach for the red pen.
Meanwhile I changed the avatar on my Facebook link so the joke is a bit less obscure.