Writing 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
For 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
If you live in Indiana or Tennessee, it may never occur to you to use the spellings organise, colour or oenology. Actually you might never use oenology, or the American counterpart enology for that matter, unless you are a true wine enthusiast. By the same token, if you live in London or Dublin, you would never consider using color or flavor. You may however use organize instead of organise, especially if you are an academic or follow Oxford Dictionaries’ spelling preferences.
But this situation appears to be changing with the increase in exposure to all regional varieties of English. And the common ground of course is the Internet, or if you prefer, the internet. Now we all have access to any corner of the world from our own living rooms, kitchens or local cafés.
During the last three decades I have lived in five countries and taught English to many non-native speakers, as well as native English speakers in the US at the university level. Foreign students of English are often exposed to a variety of “Englishes”, and often they don’t even realize there are variations of English. Add in their exposure to English worldwide on the Internet – the good, the bad and the truly ugly – and the result is a true hodgepodge of linguistic chaos. Pure anarchy.
Everyone is able to communicate in English, with some mishaps from time to time. So is there really a problem? For simply communicating, probably very little. For writing well and writing professionally. A lot. A heck of a lot. To use the colloquial, a helluva lot. (Yes, it is in Webster’s New World, 4th and 5th editions.)
Our common ground then is an English that can serve us as a useful tool to communicate both informally as well as an advanced tool for writing, be it for your own blog or to submit to The New York Times or the Financial Times.
Fortunately we are entering a time when there are more and more programs and tools to aid us in our writing endeavors (or endeavours). Under Links above, this blog will list some of the most useful sites and programs currently available.
Here we see two different ways to spell the same word, but let’s hope the different spellings don’t meet … at least not in the same paragraph, or even in the same document for that matter!
Speaking of twain (archaic for two), consider Mark Twain who expressed his disdain for editors, often and strongly. He is acknowledged as saying “…he must have little genius who can’t spell a word in more than one way.” Actually this quote has had many incarnations including something about a writer who can only think of one way to spell a word lacks imagination. Or he who cannot spell a word more than one way cannot be trusted. Or he [Twain] had no respect for someone who cannot spell a word more than one way.
Twain does make a valid point; variation enriches language. But variation of this type can confuse and irritate the reader. When we write, we help our readers by maintaining consistency. Variation can be added with synonyms: same meaning, different words, not the same word, different spellings.
Mark Twain had strong opinions and great insight. As a writer and human. Variation in our writing is desirable for novels and creative works. Blogs … tweets … emails … notes … letters … personal communication. Language is so much richer for the variation and nuances we use.
But to disseminate – spread – information fluently and with ease, one standard would serve us well. Consider efficiency and speed. Beyond literature and reading for enjoyment, our time is limited … business reports, technical manuals, trade journals, academic manuscripts and daily newspapers should not challenge us to read and reread the same sentence again and again.
On a global level, to communicate a message clearly, a unified, logical, systematic form of English is desirable. In plain English. It is much more difficult to write precise, accurate text than long-winded ramblings where the writer is clearly lost. What can we expect of the reader then.
When we write to communicate information, consider these points: write concisely … write clearly … write short sentences … use short words. Except for blogs where we can have some fun breaking the rules and enjoy the ambiguity and double-entendre English is so full of. (There. I broke a rule … broke quite a few, in fact!)