|Hi, in media res,
Took the poll and started the article, which is interesting but simply too long for me to finish right now because I'm in the midst of... you guessed it... editing!
As you know, I edit everything from books to government reports to academic catalogs to you name it. Different clients have different requirements. My "ghost writer," for instance, needs (and expects) some rewriting, recasting, reorganizing... not a lot, but enough that I get to be somewhat creative. A report I recently edited for the Office of the State Auditor, on the other hand, was very clean, formal copy and required only minor tweakings so that the style (and the state has its own style guidelines) was consistent throughout. Plus a very few, very minor grammar/punctuation corrections.
When I first got a tryout as a copy editor on the news desk at the now-dead Rocky Mountain News, the news editor told me, "Don't leave footprints." That is my editing credo. Good editing lets a sentence, book, annual report or anything else say what the writer intended--and usually without the writer's even noticing any changes.
Being inextricably linked to reading and writing, editing is no more or less a lost art than its sister occupations. Good readers make good writers and good editors. Good editors often are good, if painstaking, writers. Good writers usually are good and voracious readers, and the best writers are good editors who are not afraid to rewrite and edit their own work, to a point.
I personally feel that, ironically enough, the triad of reading, writing, editing is becoming lost in the Age of Communication. The rebus writing is partly to blame for the devolution of writing in general, but the greater fault lies with the fact that people are in such constant communication that they leave themselves little time to think. Good writing and editing require good thinking.
Also, as has been pointed out in several recent articles and books--"The Shallows," for instance--as people multi-task more and more, they more frequently use the superficial, or "shallow," parts of their brains and are becoming increasingly unable to access those parts of the brain needed for reflection and deeper thought. It would seem to follow naturally that as thinking becomes more superficial, so would writing.
Too, the inundation of poor writing on the Internet takes a toll. Of course, there is some good writing on the Web, but how can people who have lost the ability to think critically tell the difference?
One more thing. We seem to be in a period of history that glorifies the loudmouth, and foulmouthed loudmouths seem to be held in surprisingly high esteem. As speaking becomes more fraught with "effins" -- and the loudest "effs" win -- writing, if you care to call it that, follows suit.
I have to share a sentence that filled me with delight yesterday. Nothing fancy, but a sentence that does its job in a wonderful way:
"He had protuberant eyes: he gave an impression of unstable hilarity, as if perhaps he had been celebrating a birthday ... alone."
--"The Power and the Glory," by Graham Greene, 1940
That is a well-written and well-edited (whether by the author or an editor) sentence. The use of "as if" instead of "as though"; the most telling word at the end of the sentence and set off by the ellipsis; the instant resonance of the phrase "unstable hilarity," and the amelioration of what could be a cliche ("protuberant eyes") by that which follows. I probably would have capitalized "he" after the colon because what follows expresses a complete thought, but I might have been wrong had I done so.
Anyway, looks like I could have finished the article after all. Will get to it after I finishing editing this book on "How to Make Money Buying REOs."
All the best,
Last edited on Tue Feb 15th, 2011 11:42 am by kris