I have never been very confident in my grammar, spelling, or punctuation skills. I remember sitting in my 4th grade grammar class and absolutely dreading having to recall the definition of a predicate out loud. In my mind, editing was equivalent to math: it was confusing, rigid, and frankly, very boring.
Whenever I wrote an essay for school, I would think to myself, “Who cares about how the word ‘treacherous’ is spelled. There’s a whole novel-length paper waiting to be written!” Thoughts like these, however, held me back from becoming an excellent writer. And little did I know that editing would be a central part of my future career path and, ironically, one of my favorite things to do.
I joined the Professional Writing and Information Design major because I was attracted to the words “Writing” and “Design”. I was excited to learn how to write more eloquently and make beautiful designs, but I was not looking forward to taking grammar and editing classes. It is no surprise, then, that some of my favorite classes had something to do with design. Yet the part that I enjoyed most about these classes was not the initial creation of a design, but what came after that.
In Visual Rhetoric, our first assignment was to design our own business card. Piece of cake. Near the end of the semester, our final assignment was to design our own business card…again. We had to revisit our original design and change it using the design principles that we had learned throughout the semester. This turned out to be much more of a challenge than any of us in the class had anticipated. I sat staring at my laptop screen for what seemed half of the class period. What more could I change? I played around with the background colors, moved the position of my name about 10 times, and experimented with a few graphics that I later scrapped. At the end, all I had was nearly the exact same design as I started out with. I couldn’t understand why this was so hard.
Later that day, I revisited my design to try for a fresh start. I noticed my contact information was slightly off-center from my name, so I adjusted it. After I had made a handful of other small fixes like this, I realized later that my design looked so much more cohesive, appealing, and professional.
That is when it hit me—when I was trying to work on my design during class, I was making changes simply for the sake of change. Consequently, the design looked sloppy and amateurish. On my second try, however, I only changed things that I thought needed to be changed. Every part of the card design had a purpose and function; each element complemented the other.
This was the moment I realized what true editing is. The editing process does not start and end with words, but everything that we read, write, or design can and should be revised. Correct grammar, appropriate font size, background color—these are very small decisions that can make a big difference. The process of editing ensures that the best choices are being made to create the best product. This is one of the most important concepts that I have learned as a PWID major: there is always room for improvement, even if it is just a little 3.5 x 2-inch business card. I love editing now. I find that the most creative ideas come to me when I edit. Now, I pay extra attention to my spelling and grammar because I know how important these things are in the bigger picture. Every little part helps tell a story.
About the author
Rachel is a 2020 graduate.