Thursday, January 29, 2009

Persona non grata

Yesterday a proposal manager (in charge of a group of writers) sent a query to one of our two proposal coordinators (they shepherd proposals through the production process).

Unlike most PMs, he knows there is something called style and wants to consider it before his writers begin their work on the proposal.

He asked her the following style questions: (1) Ft. Monmouth or Fort Monmouth? (2) Service Desk or service desk? (3) information assurance or Information Assurance? (4) Periods at the end of bulleted items or not? (5) Army/DoD Group, or Army and DoD Group?

Not only did she not refer his questions to me, her response was that (1) the items weren't that important, (2) he and his writers could decide, and (3) “the Editor will also try and catch any inconsistency that was missed by the writers.”

Let's break down the three elements of her response. First, how we treat each of these items is what style is all about. Second, I’ve been charged with developing and enforcing house style. Third, I am a nameless editor who will “try” to catch errors.

Because she cc'd me on the e-mail thread, I responded to his questions with specific answers for each item. He thanked me. She didn’t even acknowledge my e-mail to him.

Again, editing is a thankless job, and it is made even more so (what is less than thankless?) when our role is ignored or, worse, undermined.