Verdict: I fell down and went boom. Rest, ice, ibuprofen, yada yada yada. It’s good to rule things out rather than find out you should have gone in earlier. Yay for a spouse with health insurance!
The bigger discussion came when the physician’s assistant (PA) who examined me found out what I do for a living. “Oh, how interesting,” he said. “So can you use some help? I have a friend in her sixties who’s out of work and she was an English major. Is that something she could do part time?”
I internally rolled my eyes. Freelance editors face this misconception frequently.
“Well, I’m an office of one,” I told him, “so, no, I don’t hire anyone, and it is rather a specialized field.”
“Oh, I see. Well, I’ll be back in a bit with your X-ray results.”
When the PA came back, he told me the results were negative (yay!). Then he picked the editing conversation back up. “So how did you get started in that?”
“Well, I have a liberal arts degree, I took some classes, and after 23 years I’ve done quite a bit of self-study, on-the-job training, continuing professional development, et cetera. And I actually now teach editing via webinars, conference presentations, and so on.”
“Oh. So what advice do you have for my friend if she would like to do that?”
Hoo boy. The old “Got any tips and tricks?”
“Well,” I said, “she would need to become expertly familiar with at least one style guide such as Chicago, as well as dictionaries and usage guides; understand levels of edit and maintaining author voice; be competent in using and maintaining current computer hardware and software, including the Microsoft Office suite and PDF software such as Acrobat, as well as specialized plug-ins specific to editing; and have solid internet skills. Plus she would need to manage the business end, such as marketing, bookkeeping, taxes, IT, client relations, et cetera, and be a self-starter in solving any problems that arise related to all of the above.”
His eyes were bugged out and there was a bunch of stuff I hadn’t even mentioned. At this point, I just wanted to get out of there and go home.
“Wow. Well, I guess maybe that wouldn’t be for her. She has only five years to go till Social Security.”
Uh-huh, I thought so. “Well, yes, it is quite a bit more than spotting typos.”
Yet he wouldn’t let it go. “I mean, I read books these days and it seems like they must not have been edited at all.”
“I see. So when you read a book, you find, what, 10 typos?”
“Oh no, more like two or three.”
“Well,” I told him, “the editor probably made a few thousand corrections during the edit, and those two or three are what remain. We never achieve perfection. A few always slip through. That’s still an accuracy rate well above 99 percent.”
“Wow, I had no idea …”
“Oh yes. For example, I was doing a cleanup edit yesterday [I briefly explained what that is] and one chapter had 168 pages and more than 3,000 edits. So even if 10 errors remained, that’s 99 percent plus several decimal places accurate.”
And with that the PA was a puddle on the floor, and I was free to go.
People really have no idea what we do.