I come from a family of engineering types. Analytical fellows, who, for example, understand how machines work. I have always felt a bit inferior about this, that a character flaw propels me toward words and pictures. My oldest brother, who has rapport with automobiles, has come to my rescue many times. Granted, that one time I didn't have the car in park, so of course it wouldn't start. But other times, there were legitimate and serious troubles, a u-joint that needed replacement, say.
Just this past summer, my aging but beautiful coupe did not want to start while in his town. This most recent bout had to do with the car making no noise whatsoever when the key was turned. It's easier to call him these days, as I am equipped with a cellular telephone, and even after all these years he seems unsurprised to be asked to drop everything and tend to me. When he arrives, he jumps out of his vehicle with a great big screwdriver and tells me to give it another try. (Of course it starts right up. Somehow in his presence, cars behave.) But it didn't start on every try, so he clanged on something under the hood - voila - and said "You're starter's going out." This took two whole minutes.
The point is, while he is in fact an analytical guy, don't tell me there wasn't a bit of intuition in finding the solution. I mean, how did he know to bring a huge screwdriver along?
It turns out we're not so different. No one in my family has ever called me in crisis, stuck in a parking lot with a poorly constructed sentence, but nevertheless, it's true that there is a systematic approach to putting together a magazine, and editors have a lot of rules to obey. We use our hearts, but it's not all from the gut. In addition to myriad grammar and usage rules (including one that says myriad is used alone, never a myriad of, an error I've seen in even the smartest writers' work, aha!) A list of fifty common sense rules specific to university magazine work, compiled by some of the best in the business is taped to my wall. I consult it regularly.
- Some of the rules I like because they are so cleverly put:
- 44. The best letters are the ones that begin Dear Idiot.
- Some are endearing in intent:
- 42. Imagine that the writer is your mother.
- This set cuts right to it:
- 37. Remind women writers that they don't have to mention their husbands or boyfriends.
- 38. Remind male writers that it's okay to acknowledge there are other people on the freaking planet.
- Some are about the nitty gritty:
- 8. Read all galleys three times, once backward.
- And then there's the soul of the list:
- 40. Magazines are fun. Remember that.
Please enjoy this issue, and feel free to write a letter, salutation of your choice.
Thank you for reading.