It ain’t what you know

that will get you into trouble, it’s what you think you know is true that ain’t.*

And this is doubly true for writers and copyeditors. Would you believe I’m thirty-mumble and didn’t know the difference between a temple and a synagogue? I had to look it up. It turns out “temple” is a word used by Reform and some Conservative Jews for their place of worship and it refers back to the temple in Jerusalem that fell to the Romans in the first century. But other Jews think it’s a sacrilegious reference. So when in doubt, just call it a synagogue.

There are a couple of other, more embarrassing, scientific things that I thought I knew that I didn’t. Let’s just say editing is a great field to shore up your knowledge of just about anything. You just have to be good about looking it up. Even if you know for a fact that you’re right. Even if you bet your sister a dollar** that something is so.

What have you learned in the course of editing?

* My dad spent a number of years trying to find the source of that quote, but alas he never did. It’s usually attributed to Twain. So on the soul of my dear old dad, can’t anyone tell me where this grossly mis-quoted sentence comes from?

** My sister taught me from a young age never to gamble by the simple method of beating me at every bet I’ve ever made with her. Don’t play pool with her either. Just a fair warning.



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