Enough said … editors and editing

Blue plume penWriting is like shadow boxing. Editing is when the shadows fight back. Adam Copeland

There are two typos of people in this world: those who can edit and those who can’t. Jarod Kintz

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly. C.J. Cherryh

An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.  Adlai Stevenson

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. Thomas Jefferson.

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. Truman Capote

There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don’t see them. Elie Wiesel

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. Author Unknown

Red x penFor I am a bear of very little brain and long words bother me. Winnie the Pooh

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers. T. S. Eliot

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To make an impact, but not to impact?

Like a tidal wave, the impact of English diversity
A tidal wave, the impact of English (and editing)

Tweets and articles reporting the pet peeves of copy editors have been circulating widely and wildly during the past weeks. The annual conference of ACES, the American Copy Editors* Society, was held in Pittsburgh March 26-28. One of the standouts among editors’ pet peeves was disagreement on the use of the word impact as a verb. See link here.

This is nothing new; many stylebooks, including The Associated Press and the Financial Times, discuss the use of impact. AP says to use it sparingly; FT does not condone it. In fact, impact is not the only noun to be denied verb status by stylebooks. Also included in this group is to author. Personally, I use impact as a verb informally, but admit that I “apologize” for its use in the company of editors. I tend to agree with stylebooks about author; I feel “write” is a better choice as a verb. But I totally cringe when I hear signature used as a verb. So we each have our limits, personal levels of acceptability – our own pet peeves.

Is the use of impact as a verb such a linguistic sin? After all, the past participle form of the verb is used as an adjective, as in an impacted tooth or molar.

Actually this is probably a good time to introduce descriptivism vs prescriptivism. Or in plain language if you aren’t a language buff, what we really say and write vs what we have been told is correct. Now, I could say that I am a descriptive linguist which is basically redundant. Are there linguists who are not descriptive?

While I personally adhere to the descriptive view, I recognize the need for the prescriptive approach as well. Each and every thing properly in its place.

Do we need prescriptive rules? Probably. If we consider how unregulated English is now, and how much more so it could become, then we would do well to listen to editors’ advice. It’s like trying to hold back the classic tidal wave, but here of different forms, spellings, use of words, meanings. Maybe a little order wouldn’t hurt.

It impacted, she authored, he signatured. Can the message be understood? Yes. Is it good writing? It depends. Editors are not only concerned with the content of a message, but whether text is technically written well and flows smoothly. In truth, anyone can write. Few can write well. Editors and copy editors are there to help us all write better.

Again, the distinction is one of when and where to use which forms. We can have our local, personal, colorful English, but write formally in a consistent common standard. English is richer for the local dialects in plays, poems, literature and blogs. But remember to consider stylebooks and editors, at least when the goal is to have your writing accepted by a major publication.

*And yes, there is no apostrophe in their official name, according to their own website.

Enough said … writing and rewriting

Blue plume penIt is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book. Friedrich Nietzsche

There is no great writing, only great rewriting. Louis D. Brandeis

Of every four words I write, I strike out three. Nicolas Boileau

Omit needless words. William Strunk Jr.

Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short. Henry David Thoreau

The best writing is rewriting. E. B. White

An incinerator is a writer’s best friend. Thornton Wilder

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. James A. Michener

Most of my work consisted of crossing out. Crossing out was the secret of all good writing. Mark Haddon

I hate editors, for they make me abandon a lot of perfectly good English words. Mark TwainRed x pen