Fuck YOU Chomsky! (Editing in Taiwan)

Every once in awhile, a Taiwanese university student will find me and ask that I edit their MA or PhD thesis for them. By times it might be a doctor writing for a nephrology journal, or a chemist reporting the outcome of his most recent concoction to one obscure geek journal or another. Sometimes it’s an editing job, sometimes it’s a total fucking rewrite. There was a girl from Hualien in English Lit with a shallow paper on Southern Gothic literature. Trust me – I now know more about Carson McCullers, William Faulkner and Truman Capote than she ever will. I don’t much care. Based on the time, skill and effort required to complete the job, I charge them a fair price. It’s just English. I ain’t no fucking Steinbeck or Einstein, but there isn’t a Taiwanese alive I can’t help.
What amazes me, though, are the locals who cannot write a proper sentence, cannot edit themselves, don’t know how to use spellchecker and still have the temerity to question my work.
Most recently a young lady with a severe penchant for run-on sentences advised me that she would not be pursuing an ongoing relationship with me as her editor. The reason: Colons are informal and I used one.
I have no idea where or how she came to view a bit of punctuation as either formal or informal. I tried to explain to her that the humble colon is neither – it’s merely either properly or improperly: employed. 
Now I more fully understand our initial telephone conversation, in which she spent a very long time telling me what a terrible experience she has had with so very many native-speaking editors.
Of course, being a native speaker of English is in no way, shape or form the baseline qualification to either write or edit. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. There are plenty of westerners here who would allow “I wouldn’t of thought of that” or “irregardless” to slide (and this is my fucking blog and I think it looks neater without fucking commas. Blow me).

In any case, there’s something surreal about having someone who can’t keep their tenses straight tell me that they will be looking for another editor because colons are too informal for journal publication.

NK: These fucking Taiwanese! They’re driving me insane!
DC: Don’t you think that’s a little bit racist?
NK: Racist? I don’t want to kill them.

[Aside: That colon gag up there. That was fucking funny]

UPDATE: I emailed her to clarify my position on the use of colons (I’m for it!) She replied that it wasn’t just the colon, it was the misspelling.
Misspelling?
DIVERGENT. Her software underlines it. I thought perhaps it was one of those stupid MSWord grammar things it so often gets wrong, so I went back to the document:
Data indicated that senior high students and teachers had divergent perspectives on the relative value of grammar instruction and error correction.
Thanks for the feeedback.

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7 Responses

  1. Give these people a break. Asian people are known to be extremely insecure and picky. If you get to understand their culture a little bit more, I’m sure you won’t be as frustrated as you currently are.

  2. I get where you’re coming from. I’ve been here a long time. It’s not that…it’s …THAT. Sigh. Smile. Smile. Nod. Yes, that’s very nice. Thank you.
    I once tried to explain Sarcasm to my Chinese friend. He couldn’t get his head around the notion of EVER saying anything you really mean. He never tells anyone what he really thinks about anything. He says what promotes guanxi and makes sure to never cost anyone face.
    As a result, however, the irony of saying something you don’t mean (eg. Good job, genius) is lost.

  3. Ah, attack of the “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing but I think I know more than you do” syndrome. That drives me up the wall. And when the fuck did the colon become informal? It’s always looked formal to me!

  4. God forgives your soul.

  5. God? What a fuckin’ giveaway. Have you read his books? THAT putz needs an editor!

  6. I’m sorry about what I wrote!!

  7. I happen to have the most formal colon on my block. I even have a little tuxedo for it.

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