I’ve thought a lot lately about evolution, but not the kind where amphibians crawl out of the ocean, eventually become monkeys, and go on to pay mortgages and stand in line at Starbucks. Every profession sees ways and methods rise and fall out of fashion. Let me talk about a few from editing and writing, and I’d like to hear about what you see out on the drilling jobsite.
Years ago, standard practice said to put two spaces after a period in typing. Teachers told me to hit the Space bar twice when I first learned to type. It made clear the difference between the end of a sentence and, for instance, the end of an acronym inside a sentence. For instance:
It’s no longer the fashion in the U.S. to use two spaces after a period. Some argue, however, that using one space confuses our brains, since we’d expect “to” to have a capital letter in the previous sentence.
Both sides say their way makes writing more readable. But, at some point, people just stopped hitting that extra space. Major style guides, like Chicago and Associated Press—the Bibles of writing and editing, urge against it. People write long Internet screeds against two spaces.
Team single-space won this battle.
Email offers another example. As a newspaper guy, Associated Press style filters every word that my fingers punch out on the keyboard. We use stylebooks to make writing consistent from day to day. A stylebook keeps me from writing borehole for one story and bore hole in the next. (Chicago style, by the way, guides academic writing and a lot of book publishing.) In Associated Press style, until recently, the preferred word for electronic mail was e-mail, with a hyphen. I always thought it looked silly, but news people love their stylebooks, so I toed the line and used the hyphen.
Imagine my relief when the hyphen officially went away. Now, if we could only get rid of the uppercase I in Internet, I’d be a happy man.
You didn’t come here to have me bore you with tiny writing rules that no one but writers care about. Let me circle back to drilling.
I recently edited a story to go in our September issue. We did a question and answer about rig maintenance with an aftermarket product manager at Boart Longyear. He discussed how the drilling industry has evolved from simpler, mechanical rigs to more complex, high-tech models that demand a higher skill set to fix and maintain. That got me thinking about the evolution of how professionals get their jobs done. Rigs are a big change, though. I wonder about the small changes.
What is the drilling equivalent of doing away with that extra space after the period? Tweaks in state and federal regulations might come to mind. Maybe there’s a safety change you’ve seen in your lifetime, a little thing that made all the difference. What evolution in how you do your job just happened as everyone in the industry woke one day to say, “Nah, we don’t do that anymore”?
I’m all ears. Talk to me in the comments or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.