You know me: I’m laidback, friendly, and casual to the extreme.

Which makes sense: as a middle child I’m naturally pre-disposed to people-please, as a Canadian I’m polite to a fault, and as an improviser I’m taught to ‘Yes, And’ whatever ‘offer’ is there. So, I’ve come by my easygoing nature quite honestly.

The downside is that I’m overcasual in far too many circumstances; I’m sloppy around the house – leaving water glasses in the living room, my sweater on the back of a chair, the toothbrush next to the mug for holding toothbrushes… and countless other minor transgressions that can quickly add up to clutter and mess. And I cannot make the bed in a way that satisfies my wife.

And outside the house?  My bike seat is held on with duct tape, I’m frequently late, and… I could go on.

But the point is that this is who I am: a superchill dude who just rolls with whatever is happening. Master of the laissez-faire je ne sais quoi.

At least that’s what I thought.

A shocking realization

Since December I’ve been working nearly full-time at a Dutch tech start-up called Tiqets. My role is Senior Copywriter and Head of Content.

So my new(ish) day job is to write about tourist attractions around the globe. Which is pretty sweet. I also created the tone of voice for the whole website. Another part of my remit is to edit the texts I haven’t written (I can’t write them all), before they go for translation.

In the process I’ve been learning a lot about myself.

My discovery is this: I am not laidback. At all! I am a fiercely persnickety detail-obsessed grammar dictator, liable to seethe with rage over a small failing or inconsistency.

scream at a computer

From laidback to obsessive

It turns out that, in matters of writing style at least, I’m a raging control freak. Fail to follow the style guide, use two or more words where fewer will do, or fill a text with meaningless twaddle, and I will go nuts. I suppose the tendency has been there for some time, but since starting this job it has been activated, animated, and turbo-charged.

Two spaces after a period – even in an email? GTFO. You’re instead of your? Delete your account. Turn in sloppy text? You’re on my shitlist.

Any workday I can find myself repeatedly punching fist into sweaty palm, wishing that I could just let these things go. After all, these grammar rules or peccadilloes are hardly matters of global import. But then I remember:

I get paid to be a bear about this stuff. My obsessive minutiae mongering is marketable; my grammar-specific OCD is a job-market accredited useful skill! Hurrah!

But it’s not just a professional eureka moment, it’s a personal one as well; I’m forced to confront the fact that my idea of self as supremely laidback is not consistent with current evidence. This bums me out – until I get back to work, tracking down and destroying typos, crushing syntax errors and holding the line against inconsistent punctuation. Then I find I feel more like myself.

And I like it.

It also gives me license to roam the grammar warrens of the internet hinterlands, making thrilling discoveries. Things such as…

  • Site and sight are two different things: a site is a historically significant area (like the Battle of Waterloo, the Colosseum), a sight is anything you want to see (Times Square, Trevi Fountain, Madame Tussauds). So you’re more likely to ‘sightsee’ on holiday, though you may also ‘sitesee’ (which, in any case, is also, technically, ‘sightseeing’)
  • Though sometimes used interchangeably, a bus is technically different from a coach. That technical difference is: a bus has driver controls behind the front axle, whereas the driver controls for a coach are in front of it.
  • Farther is a measurement of distance, further means “to a greater degree”. They are different words, with different meanings.

Earlier, when I said these discoveries were ‘thrilling’ you may have thought I was being facetious. I was not; these things genuinely get me excited. Feel free to judge me for that, I’m fine with it.

Indulging the tidy side

This stuff – which may be insignificant or irrelevant to others, matters to me. There’s joy to be found in doing things properly. That having things done a certain way, instead of just shrugging your shoulders and saying “whatever, sounds good”, is not something lesser.

In fact, as all craftsmen, architects, poets, musicians, project managers, engineers know: executing according to rules and guidelines has merit, and yields results. Casual indifference is not a higher state.

This has been a powerful realization for me. It has yet to translate to other areas of my life (such as the home I share with my punctilious wife. But for now, at least in this one category, I’ve indulged the me who does stuff properly.