Learning quite a lesson, quietly

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 15, 2003

We all make mistakes. It just seems some of us make them more than others.

I tend to fall into the latter category. In the past few weeks, I've found several mistakes that I've let slip through the cracks while proofreading pages and stories. A few of the mistakes were made in stories I wrote.

Not factual mistakes, but instead, spelling mistakes or a misusage of a word.

For instance, in the July 5 edition, as so many people have pointed out by comments on the street, unsigned letters mailed in and anonymous telephone calls; there were "quite" a few mistakes involving the usage of the words "quiet and quite."

That was my error, and one for which I take all the credit.

I know the difference between quite and quiet, but that doesn't mean I always get it right when I'm writing a story. (Mrs. Mac, please forgive me!)

You see, for those of you who don't know me personally, I tend to have a very thick, pronounced, undeniable southern accent. In turn, I tend to write words like I pronounce them.

Hence, the wrong usage of "quite" when it should have been "quiet."

I have a natural tendency to put long vowel sounds on words where it's not always necessary. That means "quiet" sounds more like "quite."

Just ask me to say the word out loud and you'll understand.

In my travels across the country, people have picked up on this little quirk of mine. My speech is always a topic for conversation whenever I'm up north (or down south, or well

it's just a topic just about anywhere).

On a plane trip to Minnesota, a very nice lady overheard me chatting with a flight attendant about the trip being my first time on an airplane. Once she heard my voice, she instantly new I was from the south, and had to get me to talk out loud to all of her friends on the plane. For a moment, I could not have been more embarrassed. But, nevertheless, I conceded and for a moment felt like I was reciting the "rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain," from high school.

Newly aware of my lack of "sophisticated speech," I became self-conscious about the sound of my voice.

When I returned to college, my speech and debate teacher was the first one to notice my attempts to change my manner of speaking. She told me not to worry about it, but I didn't really listen. Instead, I continued trying to change my vocal patterns.

Later that same year, while delivering a speech for a class in front of several university officials, my PR professor, adviser and friend called me on the subject. Her exact words were "You're Jeffery. The way you talk is who you are. People won't believe you if you change the way you talk. You talk to people in a way that puts them at ease and you should not worry about changing it."

That was an eye-opener. It's a fact I've come to live with. I talk funny (well, extreme southern, or as some would say

I don't talk good).

It's not an excuse though for errors in the paper. That was just sloppiness on my part, but as I've told people, one of my personal goals for the paper is to make each edition better than the previous edition. Some days, we accomplish that. Some days we don't. Each day though, we put in a great amount of effort, we just don't always get it right the first time.