How do you edit your own writing?(Take II)

Subject: How do you edit your own writing?(Take II)
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 13:59:08 -0500

Bruce Byfield, responding to my comment that "It's pretty much impossible to
edit yourself in terms of grammar or style...", observes: <<I think that
this is too much of a blanket statement.>>

Of course. There's no time to cover all possibilities in a simple e-mail
message and still stay gainfully employed. <g> That necessitates a measure
of simplification. Okay, I retrench: "it very difficult to edit yourself..."

<<if you are observant and aware of such matters, it is possible to change
or edit a good deal of your grammar and style.>>

For some things, unquestionably; I, for instance, overuse semicolons and
parenthetical comments. But more often, you have to have other stylistic
flaws pointed out to you. Time helps; as I noted, something that appears
perfectly innocuous today will look considerably less so if you wait a week
and revisit it, thereby making it easier to spot the flaws. But if you
simply don't understand certain points of grammar, use words incorrectly,
and so on, there's no way to correct these problems until someone else
points them out. As famed swordsman Inigo Montoya says, "You keep using that
word. I do not think it means what you think it means." <g>

<<Style isn't really taught in school, even in graduate rhetoric classes.>>

It's certainly something that lies unnoticed until someone edits you and you
start spotting things. The best lessons in style I've ever received were
when a good editor took a whack at the things I'd written before publishing
them: the corrections show me things that I hadn't noticed myself doing, and
the erroneous edits clearly point out where I'd failed to communicate
something. I'm a much better writer for having been edited.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
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