Wednesday, February 10, 2016

There Is No “E” in Mathematics, Huh?

My last major project as a government employee was to help my department write new job descriptions for the state's IT workers. Those job descriptions would be used as a guide as every employee was forced to reapply for their jobs.

I was chosen to participate because my boss knew I could write. The task required quite a bit of writing. As the meetings started, though, I remembered why I don't like to work as part of a committee. It's hard to be heard when there are so many people offering input.

Toward the end of the project, a couple of brainiacs from a higher department came over to help. As we reviewed what we'd done, one of those brainiacs pointed out a typo.

"There's no 'e' in 'mathematics,'" he said.

"No, that's the right spelling," I said.

A discussion ensued, at which point I pulled out my phone to look it up and prove it. Just as I'd found the official spelling (mathematics), the original brainiac asserted his know-it-all-ness. "It's mathmatics without an 'e,'" he said very firmly.

This was me:

I actually thought it through like this: this was going to be a public document, posted on the Intranet for all employees to see. Thousands of people would be eyeballing that document over the next 20 years or so...or until they outsourced all the jobs to one of those call centers where someone with a heavy accent tells you his name is "Bob."

But the final thought I had on the matter, before letting this team put a document out requiring "mathmatics" as a skill, was that my name wasn't on it. Also, I figured all of those descriptions had to be approved by personnel. Surely someone, at some point, would know how to properly spell mathematics and catch the error...


Flash forward a year later. I was gone. I'd left to be a full-time freelancer, but I was also that "employee who left because she got a book deal." The guy who insisted there's no "e" in mathematics had no idea who I was, so there's no justice there. But there's justice in my mind. While I may not be perfect, even when it comes to grammar and spelling, I do know two things that every person compiling a written document should know:

1) How to Google

2) How to pay attention to that little red line in Word that tells you when you've spelled something incorrectly.

Have you ever had to bite your tongue when you knew someone was wrong about something?