Every. Single. Word. *YKWIM.

12 Oct

I spend a great deal of time proofreading my posts because it is important to me to say what I mean. A long time ago when I was working on my first novel with my co-author, John Pace, we developed the habit of working on two computers (an Apple IIe and an Apple IIc. Thanks Steve and Steve.) side by side on a large desk in our office. One of us would write and the other would edit previous chapters, chiming in whenever a question came up or an idea needed to be explored. During this process, in either mode, we would often come across sentences, paragraphs or entire passages that needed to be rewritten or entirely excised. What remained following that necessary surgery was the task of saying as clearly and succinctly as possible what we wanted to convey in the first place.

Picture the two of us there, staring into space as we struggled to find the right combination and arrangement of words to replace what we’d removed. To keep our heads from exploding we took to starting the revison process by typing *YKWWM at the beginning of the blank spot.  These letters stood for “You Know What We Mean.”  We would laugh because, though we knew what we meant, until we wrote it correctly, the world would not know what we meant. Once we’d tackled the problem and fixed it, the removal of those six characters signified that we were happy with the changes and could move on.

Words have meanings. Every single one of them. Put them in the wrong order and you’ve thrown Mary down the stairs the ball. No matter how much we wanted it to be easy, writing was work and short cuts got us absolutely nowhere. We had to get it right. The false joy of ‘finishing’ a passage or paragraph pales in comparison to the satisfaction of getting it right. It takes just as long to write a good book as a bad one and typing ‘The End’ doesn’t always mean you’re done. 

With that I’d like to share a link to an article that I found very interesting. It’s about an inaccurate “quote” set, unfortunately, in stone. Here’s the link. http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/11/opinion/clark-king-monument-inscription/index.html I hope you enjoy it. The solution might be to carve in the characters, *YKWWM.

It worked for me.

10 Responses to “Every. Single. Word. *YKWIM.”

  1. susielindau October 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    So true how that one letter changes the tone of the whole inscription. They say that people only listen to half of what other say. When I think of how carefully I revise and still find errors, it doesn’t surprise me that sometimes others have no idea what I am talking about!! I will have to write about it sometime!
    Great post.
    Keep that boat in the harbor…..

    • Douglas MacIlroy October 12, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

      Dear Susie,

      Good morning and thank you for reading that post. I’m glad you liked the article. It resonated with me and as my vast legion of blog readers are writers, I figured some of them might find food for thought in it.

      (I guffawed when I read your last line:) Trust me, that boat is staying in the harbor for a long, long time yet.



  2. Robin Hawke October 15, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Great post…

    I found myself jealous of the relationship the two of you had. How wonderful to have someone as nit oriented by your side!


    • dmmacilroy October 18, 2011 at 9:51 am #

      Hi Robin,

      I’ve co-authored one novel and one screenplay, each with different people. Takes two souls with a lot in common and a shared vision. First one was fun in the long run, but damn, it was hard to manage at times. Second try was better as I knew what I was getting in to.

      Might be better for you just to develop a split personality…

      Thanks for reading,


  3. Deborah the Closet Monster October 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    “YKWWM.” I’m delighted to read this 2.5 weeks into the month I was meant to begin editing another book. Perhaps taking this approach for the first path (albeit with “YKWIM”), I’ll actually find what it takes to begin.

    I don’t have to get it right on first pass. Just right-ish. Eventually!

    • dmmacilroy October 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

      Dear Deborah,

      You writing is clear and concise. That tells me you’re a great editor. I have no doubt that once you get started everyting will flow well.

      Thanks for reading my posts and letting me know you did. Helps to know someone’s out there.



  4. Jeannie March 2, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    Doug, as you very well know, this is something I am learning, and struggling with myself. And it isn’t just in the stories we write–I’m finding it’s equally important in the short pieces of poetry and haiku as well. every. word, counts. Yes sir, it does.

    About the article, it is a pet peeve of mine (and yes, I do stroke it quite often) for words of others to be taken out of context. I think, in part, this comes from being raised in a home where one parent was Catholic, the other Southern Baptist–I attended both churches–and listened to one church rail against the other, taking professed beliefs and scripture (!) out of context to prove their point. So, if we think enough of someone to erect a statue in their honor, to commemorate their life’s work, then let’s have the decency to attribute their quotes honestly and correctly. Enough said about that!

    I think I’m going to use something similar to YKWIM…maybe something like WTHWIT (what the hell WAS I thinking) LOL!

    Excellent post! I enjoyed it very much.

    • Douglas MacIlroy March 2, 2012 at 3:45 am #

      Dear Jeannie,

      Want to know a secret? I proofread this post a dozen times and then posted it and a few people read it and commented. And there it sat for months, my post about getting things right in writing and my unstinting efforts to do so.

      About a week ago I was reading it again and found I’d misspelled a simple word after all that work. Sheesh! So I shook my head, fixed it and drove on. Lesson relearned for the umpteenth time.

      Thanks for reading this. I like your new acronym just as much as mine. Good job. (And keep writing!)



  5. rochellewisoff August 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Dear Doug,
    This is a though provoking piece and one that I would love to see read and reread, including the link. It’s so easy to misspell words or put them together in the wrong context, particularly in the day we live in. How many typos have I caught due to not backspacing far enough. I’ve been horrified to find things like “he kissed the her”. And the list goes on.

  6. rochellewisoff September 2, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Reblogged this on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields-Addicted to Purple and commented:
    My friend Doug MacIlroy shared this on his blog nearly a year ago. When I read it I decided it bore repeating. So, with permission, here it is. Enjoy the read. Shalom-Aloha, Rochelle

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