Comma Chameleon

Project management talks about the triad of “cost, schedule, performance.” RFP responses must subordinate standards (performance) to schedule.  That’s hardly unique to proposal management, but it takes on a particularly compelling aspect given the hard deadline nature of the work. As demanding as those deadlines seem, at least they offer an external voice that we all need sometimes.  

Comma Chameleon

It’s a well-known song by Culture Club.  Not really my style of music, maybe, but catchy.

Certainly as I do my final copy edit of my manuscript in preparation for the publisher’s editor to do hers, the lyrics keep running through my head:  “Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon, you come and go, you come and go (oh, oh, oh).”  And indeed they do come and go (oh, oh, oh) as I  add the Oxford comma here (per the publisher’s official style guide), and pull the “I just needed a breath”  comma there.

As I go through my book, I keep finding places where I could insert a new glossary term, add a paragraph, or tweak a section.  How can I get it all done in time for the publisher’s schedule?

There’s a great story in The Soul of a New Machine, which chronicled the research and development effort behind a new mini-computer in 1980.  The author tells of there being a darkened office with a door slightly ajar: no one is ever seen in the office or entering or leaving it.  As Kidder put it, there comes a time in the development effort when the door swings open and a voice speaks.

“It’s ready.  Ship it.”

That’s the dispassionate voice of reason – the voice without which the engineers would never let their imperfect baby go to market.

And so it is with me, too.  In Proposal Land, the deadline is that voice of reason, like it or not.  In Publishing Land, as in the rest of life, sometimes we have to find that voice within ourselves.

“It’s ready, Isabel.  Ship it.”

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