It was a small letter, but the difference it made was big. “The patient recently sold her hose.” Wait. What? I looked at what I’d just typed. House. She’d sold her house, and according to the report’s dictator, was still struggling with anxiety and stress.
Whew. It was good I’d caught that. And wouldn’t I have some stress of my own if a mistake like that had slipped through? I would, and no properly-placed question mark about it, either.
When I won the Reno County spelling bee as an eighth grader and went to state, I had no idea that my strong grammar, punctuation and spelling skills would one day parlay into a career. But they did, and my internal editor never went to sleep. I couldn’t help it. Just as my dad, the body man, could spot a ripple or a drip in a paint job from 50 paces, so it was for me and misplaced commas. Or misspellings.
For a “words girl,” it was akin to nails screeching across a blackboard. And yet, every so often, one was reminded that she, too, was human and given to mistakes.
There was, after all, the time I’d been transcribing an orthopedics report. “The patient is here today to have his cast removed,” the doctor chirped cheerfully into his handheld recorder.
“The patient is here today to have his cats removed.” That’s what came out as my fingers blazed across the keyboard. I shuddered. I knew good and well what could be removed if I sent in a report like that. It was a three-letter word, and the letters were j-o-b.
When I told my friends about it, one of them piped up, saying that she used to type the church bulletin. Personally, she’d found the letter “g” to be a big one. After all, when the church was coming together to sing, one didn’t want to drop the “g” off the end. No, siree. There was plenty of the other in the pews already (that’s what the altar was for, after all), and the thrust of many sermons was the discouragement of the one and the encouragement of the other.
If the internet was to be believed, there’d been plenty of mayhem in church bulletins already. “Hymn: I Love Thee, My Ford,” one of them announced. “Potluck supper,” another one said. “Prayer and medication to follow.”
Yet another one carried special instructions. “The audience is asked to remain seated until the end of the recession.” Instantly, I recalled several revivals I’d endured on wooden benches in my childhood church. To young-uns with the attention span of a turnip, it felt like we’d sat through several recession cycles, bottoms going numb, before the congregation finally sang “Just As I Am” and those convicted either raised their hands or went forward.
I read on. “Diana and Don request your presents at their wedding.” If Diana was doing the bulletins that week, I thought to myself, it may not have been accidental.
“The church will host an evening of fine dining, superb entertainment and gracious hostility.” I cringed. Many churches offered that in spades. It was called being two-faced and backstabbing. If anything could drive a pastor to indigestion, chucking down Tums by the handful, it was this particular sin.
And speaking of sin, “The choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.” Here, I gave thanks. Our choir director diligently encouraged us in the ways of righteousness. We were urged instead to, “Stop sinning. Oh, and keep the backs of your throats wide open. You altos are sounding pinched.”
“The outreach committee has enlisted 25 people to make calls on those who are not afflicted with any church.” Oops. And ouch. But the next one was worse. “At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What is hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.”
Clearly, it wasn’t simple spelling that required an eagle eye. It was the general placement and use of words. “Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.” That was a good example right there.
It took sensitivity, too. When I saw that one bulletin instructed the Low Self-Esteem support group to “please use the back door,” I gulped. But I gasped out loud at the next one. “Weight Watchers will meet at 7 p.m. Please use the large double door at the side entrance.” Someone had dropped the ball (and perhaps a platter of low-fat brownies) on this one.
Language, we see, can be tricky. The smallest things can be very big deals. Like latte and late, just for instance. With two shots of espresso and one “t,” you’re full speed. Drop those, and you’re actually late.
As an editor, writer, champion speller and transcriptionist, I hope this week finds you singing, not sinning. In your house, of course, with a “u.”
Oh, yes. May your path be paved with plenty of help (not the other), and may your cats all stay in their place.