editing :: to find my true voice

by Eric Daryl Meyer

I began laughing when I realized what I was doing, so I thought I’d share the joke.

Because I am at the tail end of my thesis, I’ve been spending a lot of time editing lately. I am finding better ways of saying what I’ve already said and trying to find all the commas that migrate around my papers and plant themselves in the wrong places.

My favored method of editing is to read the paper out loud. I find that when I’m actually speaking the text, it becomes more plainly obvious where and when I’m not making any sense. This means that I spend protracted periods of time sitting in the apartment talking to myself.

The fact that I often slip into a British, or Scottish, Irish or Australian accent while I read to myself is not what got me laughing. I’ve always enjoyed picking up other accents. My folks used to get me to read the “World Briefs” section of the newspaper (that eighth of a page in American newspapers where they tell you about all the unimportant people in the world who don’t speak English) in the accents of all the countries represented. What actually got me laughing was when I realized why I was reading in an accent.

It is well known that North Americans perceive people with Commonwealth accents as being more intelligent than people with plain ol’ ‘merican accents (and some of them actually are!). I realized that I often began slipping into these accents precisely in those sections of the paper where I thought that the argument was getting a bit dodgy or unclear. Some gremlin deep in my subconscious figured that it might sound better if someone British were reading it. Sometimes the trick even works! By distancing myself from my own writing and putting it in someone else’s voice, I don’t have to feel as crummy about the vagueness or tediousness that plagues my writing.

Nothing profound, but perhaps it’s worth a chuckle.