The first time I wore glasses I was amazed at how much I could see. The world was bigger and clearer than it had ever been. My vision was so enhanced that I couldn’t help exclaiming to the optometrist that I could see the details of his beard and the speck of dust on his table. The floor felt too close to me and I stumbled a few times. I was a baby again, relearning how to walk.
In December 2016, I read a beautiful essay on hazzlit.net, it was part of their 2016 Year in Review series. The author described how she felt when she started wearing contacts, “…suddenly trees had leaves.” she said. It was a familiar feeling, trees suddenly had leaves too when I started using glasses. I could see in 3D.
Love is blind some people say. We have written that sentence and read it so many times that some of us can’t imagine love any other way.
So we see love sitting on the side of the road with a bowl of coins, begging for alms. That’s how some of us see blind people, right?
In Writing about Editing — Wielding an Axe, I wrote about cutting out words without mercy to ensure clarity, conciseness, and precision. But editing is not just wielding an axe, it is also proofreading. It involves finding an isolated ‘i’ and crowning it with a dot. It is crossing ‘Ts’. Matchmaking paragraphs, finding out where the dinner date will be boring and fixing it before the reader arrives. It is concerned with spotting aliens and mutants.
Whenever I type on MS Word, and red and blue lines litter my work, I do not panic. I continue typing because you cannot edit a blank page. Editing is there to weed out the red and blue lines. But love is blind and selfish, it hoards. So I sometimes ignore the red and blue lines.
To checkmate this, I often get a second set of eyes to proofread my writing, and sometimes a third and even a fourth set. Since love is blind, there can be glaring errors poking my eyes but I won’t see them because I am caught up by how curvaceous my writing is, and I get carried away with passion that I fail to see where the words fall apart.
But another eye, especially if it’s a trained and trusted eye does wonders. It can see the bullshit from a mile away. Where I look and see a damsel in distress, the other eye looks and sees an alien, or a mutant alien written as allein instead of alien.
When the lovemaking with the muse get so intense that I write the is a peice acbout writng abvice. Not paying attention to the typos and ignoring spelling/grammar checker. A second eye will not be caught up in the folly. It is staring from the outside, so it can see when I am walking into a trap and would yank the string of sanity tied around my waist.
“In my house, if you can’t cook beans, you should return as a sperm.” A friend tweeted.
But to cook beans, you have to pick the beans. For none Nigerians, picking beans means removing dirt from the cups of beans way you wan cook. Sometimes you can find a stone, a grain of rice, a bean weevil, or a corn. No matter how delicious the fried beans is, if someone chews some of these aliens while eating, you can’t cook beans.
It’s the same with writing. As no matter how great a story is, or how enlightening an essay, if there are aliens and mutants on every paragraph, it is in ruin.
You should already know the aliens I am talking about are not those from space, neither are they mutants from Xmen. They are typos, improper punctuation, wrong sentence structure, poor tenses, absurd subject verb agreement, and other often neglected grammar rules that can ruin a good writing.
Spotting aliens and mutants is a skill that should be learnt by everyone who writes as things get lost in translation where there are lots of aliens and mutants.
Few months ago, I learnt the correct use of the oxford comma. Before then, I never used it. So some things often get lost in translation where I should have used it. My father, mother and doctor visited me, is different from; my father, mother, and doctor visited me. Thanks to the oxford comma.
Recognizing the need for alien and mutant spotting skills is the same as recognizing the need to wear glasses or use contacts. It enhances your vision and suddenly trees have leaves. You start seeing aliens and mutants all over your writing, and the few you missed would be spotted by a second eye.
It will also ensure your writing is clear, concise, and precise — fewer things lost in translation. Of course you will stumble and fall as you readjust to seeing details you never knew existed, but you are learning. Falling and failing is allowed.
Some aliens and mutants still smuggle their way into my blog posts and short stories. But the more I practice spotting them, the better I get at it.
So stop writing while wearing love tinted glasses. Proofread. Get a second eye. Spot the bloody aliens and mutants. The credibility of your writing depends on your spotting skills.