BY MINDI SCOTT
A few weeks ago, I was preparing egg salad for my husband’s sandwiches when I noticed that the ingredients list called for three tablespoons of one item and a quarter cup of the next.
Even though I knew for an absolute fact that I was right, I checked the conversion chart that I keep posted on my fridge. And guess what! I was wrong. It’s actually four tablespoons that’s equivalent to a quarter cup.
I think I used to know the correct answer, but somewhere along the way I misremembered. It makes me wonder now how many meals I’ve made that turned out not quite right as a direct result of me adding one too many or one too few tablespoons of something.
That little kitchen experience was humbling. It also reminded me of the Each Other Vs. One Another Fiasco of 2012.
For months, I took special care in my writing (fiction and personal correspondence), to make sure that I always used “one another” when discussing two people and “each other” when discussing three or more. (Examples: Everyone on the team talked to each another. William and I talked to one another.)
When copy edits came back for my second book, the copy editor had made notations about incorrect usage of these terms. My thought was that this copy editor was very, very mixed up.
As I read more of my draft, someone (that same copy editor or another?) made notes that this was clearly a style choice, since the author (me) had done it backward consistently throughout the draft. “Stay true to Coley’s voice,” was written in the margin on one page.
You’d think that those notes would have made me investigate, but no. I sent the draft back, leaving every “each other” and “one another” the way I’d written them. Because I knew what I was doing, even if the copy editors were confused.
It wasn’t until a few days later when I started thinking about it more. I was reading a novel written by someone else and I noticed that the author had every instance of “each other” and “one another” COMPLETELY WRONG. I went looking for confirmation that my way was right.
In a panic, I emailed my editor and told her what had happened. She was able to fix it* with no problem at all, but it was certainly embarrassing for me. It’s taken months of retraining my brain and I still have to ponder for a bit to make sure that I’ve written it correctly.
Before copy edits on my first novel, I hadn’t been aware that there is a difference between “one another” and “each other.” It’s kind of funny (but not really!) that I was trying so hard to get it right, but managed to do the opposite.
You learn something new every day, right? And sometimes you get to relearn something because your brain went and changed it on you.
*FYI: While writing this particular character, I opted for mostly grammatical correctness in the narrative. But with dialogue, I definitely went for what realistic to the way the characters would speak. This means that “one another” didn’t make it into the dialogue ever–whether it would have been correct or not.