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Happy National Word Nerd Day! Are YOU a Word Nerd?

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Given our recent focus on bad buzzwords and e-mail linguistics, we almost forgot that today is National Word Nerd Day! (Some may tell you it was yesterday. Don’t listen to them.)

And here’s a related guest post from Karen Martwick. Martwick is editor/content strategist at Travel Portland, the destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for Portland, Ore. She’s also a member of the executive committee of the American Copy Editors Society.

WORD NERDS AND UNDERCOVER EDITORS, UNITE!

Happy National Word Nerd Day! (That’s Jan. 9, if you’re wondering, but you probably already knew that if you happen to be a word nerd).

Some clues: You love to read. You have at least one “Word a Day” calendar, app or e-mail subscription. You can’t look past spelling and punctuation errors on signs and restaurant menus. You may or may not carry a red pen on your person to correct egregious errors on the fly. If you don’t already own these grammar correction stickers, you just added them to your wish list. Last but not least, no one will play Word With Friends with you.

If you recognized yourself in any of the descriptions above, congratulations, you’re a word nerd!

While word nerds can be found in all fields, people with the term “editor” on their business cards carry the cachet of being professional word nerds. But even if your job title isn’t “editor,” there’s a growing chance—if you work in communications, marketing, Web production or myriad other fields—that you are doing the work of an editor.

Are you an undercover editor? These Clark Kent types operate under titles like “PR manager,” “Web producer,” “marketing coordinator” and—perhaps the ultimate catchall—“administrative assistant.” The superhero transformation (which, in this case, involves putting eyeglasses on) happens when said managers, producers, coordinators and assistants confront copy in need of saving. Blue pencils to the rescue!

Whatever your business card says, you are an editor if:

  • You review or refine communications (letters, brochures, Web copy, blog entries, tweets or Facebook posts).
  • You notice—and correct—inconsistencies in capitalization, spelling and punctuation.
  • Your colleagues come to you for help with their writing.
  • Your company is better represented when you review its communications.

So, now you know: You’re an editor. What difference does that make?

First and foremost, you should take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. You may feel like (and may, in fact, be) the only one fighting the good fight in your office, but you are part of a broad community of professionals dedicated to making communications clearer. This fact provides more than warm fuzzies: It means that you don’t have to start from scratch when it comes to improving writing and communications in your workplace.  Admit it, it feels good to know that you haven’t been stickling when it comes to your coworkers’ writing—you’ve been answering the internal instinct of the editor. In other words, you’re not just picky—you’re right!

New (and newly self-actualized) editors, can tap into a wealth of resources to support their work. Start by networking, commiserating and learning with fellow editors at Meetups and trainings like the American Copy Editors Society national conference, coming up March 20-22, 2014, in Las Vegas. (That’s a shameless plug coming from a member of the ACES executive committee, but it really is the single best opportunity to connect with fellow editors from all sorts of backgrounds.)

Nurture your editing chops by investing—or encouraging your employer to invest—in stylebooks, webinars and trainings. Ready for the next step? Start compiling your own house style guide. (If you’ve been undercover for a while, you may already have the beginnings of a style guide in the form of notes and lists of dos and don’ts, decoders for frequently used acronyms, and the like.) Finally, if you’re prepared to unmask yourself, modify your job title and/or description to reflect your editing skills and experience.

Whether you’re a hardcore logophile or an accidental editor, have a prodigious National Word Nerd Day! And don’t forget your pen.

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