Leave Sent Material Be

The best editing is done after the send/submit button is pressed. A sad truth but a truth nonetheless. I tormented myself with assignments, articles, and creative works that I would edit until I could recite every word by memory, edit some more after that, and then hit submit when I felt I could no longer look at the work without feeling ill. Though, of course, after I sent I would read it one more time. And then, without a doubt, there would be a glaring error. A simple mistake that wasn’t seen due to what I like to call “editing-fatigue”. I would kick myself for hours, days, until I got feedback. That little mistake would eat at my stomach and make me incapable of focusing on anything else: How could I have missed it?

So, I developed a rule, it works sometimes (but not all the time). After I feel a work is complete and I have edited it until I can no longer look at it. I send it, and I do not look at it again. I will not read the email, the article, or whatever else until I get feedback. I will not allow myself to become anxious over a small detail that cannot be changed. Instead I focus on the next project, the new idea, and let the one that has been sent into cyber-space be.

Chances are any error that is found after extensive editing will be small. It won’t be a significant impact on your grade, perception, or chances of success. But, the anxiety of editing after sending will have an impact on all current works, the things that you should be giving your full attention to now. Even with this rule though, sometimes there is a moment when you realise, “I forgot to date it,” “I forgot page numbers,” “I forgot?” This realization comes without having to look. At this point you have to just breathe. Ask yourself if it is worth emailing again, resubmitting, or contacting someone in order to hopefully wipe the original from existence.

The answer to this question for me comes down to two parts. Is it a significant mistake? What will appear less professional? If it was an assignment and I forgot to attach the list of references, then yes, email your tutor and explain, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. If you sent the assignment without a date, or without page numbers, it may not be worth the email. It all depends on the significance: did they specifically ask for it? It also depends if the piece is an assignment, an article, perhaps an application cover letter. If it is a cover letter, job proposal etc. it will likely appear unprofessional to email or contact them on such a small detail and it is best to leave it up to them to decide. Will they cut you based on a simple error? Likely not.

It is all a matter of perspective, a matter of who is on the receiving end, and which is the best way to present yourself professionally. Everyone, from tutor, employer, agent?everyone is human and people make simple mistakes, they are not going to cut you based on something minute. And, if they do (excluding tutors), you may have just dodged a bullet, so to speak.

Deanna Roney is an AU graduate who loves adventure in life and literature.