Every so often (almost every day), I get to review proposals and contracts. My English and grammar isn’t the best. Don’t ask me what a past participle or a reflexive pronoun is. You’ll just my famous blank look. I give the same blank look when I’m in deep thought, day dreaming or in the throes of an orgasm. But that’s for another entry.
What really surprises me is how sloppy some of my peers can be with customer documents. They rely on Word to capture typos and spelling mistakes. Sometimes I’ll see a rather dense paragraph of a long running sentence. If I read it out loud, I’ll need to pause several times to catch my breath. I tell the sales guy to rewrite it. Often it will be basic things like advice vs advise or iit’s vs its. What also drives me nuts is the lack of basic editing. If you can say it in one sentence, then do it. I think the sales staff in my company just spews out words. Size matters but inversely.
For example, “The design phase or Phase 1 is a prerequisite for all the other phases. It is important to complete this before we can begin Phase 2, 3 and 4 of the project.” I told the sales guy that you don’t need the second sentence because in the first sentence you stated Phase 1 is a prerequisite. Ugh.
Sometimes I’ll be stumped by a sentence or a paragraph. Something will catch my eye and it won’t sound right or doesn’t look right. I usually go back to the Elements of Style by Strunk and White or On Writing Well by William Zinsser as basic guides. The English language is full of twist and turns. I’m still a student. Over time I’ve come to appreciate the art and craft of writing well. I understand why we need to be precise and concise. I think my English teachers will roll their eyes and breath a sigh of relief – “Geez, it took him long enough.”
Anyways… back to my proposal review on a sunny Sunday afternoon.