I learned to read before I was old enough to remember learning to read. I liked children’s books, of course, but I also liked reading anything that had words on it: street signs, pamphlets, billboards, shampoo bottles, coffee table books, warning labels…you name it. When I was little, I figured everyone who wrote all those things probably knew the rules, so I assumed what I read was correct. As I got older, though, and suffered through grade school grammar, I started to notice discrepancies between what was written on the pamphlets and warning labels and what I was learning from my school books.
From this I drew two conclusions. First, a lot of people who write don’t know what they are doing. Second, there is often more than one right way to write. These conclusions were confirmed as I wrote papers in high school, graded other people’s essays in college, and wrote and edited technical manuals for a software company after college.
I’ve always had a knack for evaluating the accuracy, sense, appeal, and grammatical correctness of words on a page (or sign, or wrapper). When my cousins and I were little, we gave each other nicknames using an adjective that started with the first letter of our name. I was Careful Carrie. Being Careful Carrie was lame when I was eight, but it really comes in handy as an editor. I’m even more careful now than I was then, especially with other people’s valuable writing.
I still find it impossible to pass by anything with writing on it without stopping to read it. Because I have learned so much from reading, I want to help writers write as well as possible for the benefit of all those who will potentially read what they write.
Incidentally, my cousin Colton, who was nicknamed by turns Cool Colton or Courageous Colton, now fights wildfires in Oregon when he is not skydiving or traveling the world.