Explaining your edits (was: Whaddaya know?)

Subject: Explaining your edits (was: Whaddaya know?)
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2001 11:50:25 -0400

Dick Margulis and John Garison continued the discussion of the inadequate
modern English education:

<<[John] But ... does an editor have to know what it's called? Or do they
really just need to spot something amiss and be able to get the writer to
then recognize and change it?>>

Spotting and fixing the problem is certainly the most important skill we
editors possess. Sometimes you can justify a correction simply by picking a
similar example that illustrates clearly why the original phrase posed
problems. But:

<<[Dick] That's not a totally unreasonable position, but I see it as being
both time-consuming and non-reproducible. If what I am aiming for is
continuous improvement (in the sense that I want each of my clients to get
better with time and reduce the editing burden as a result), then I want my
editors to have the vocabulary--and be able to teach the vocabulary--to talk
about the written language with those clients.>>

And sometimes, apart from the noble but foredoomed fight to teach our
authors to write better, you run up hard against an author who simply won't
accept a change unless you can document the reason for your change;
sometimes it's pure "I don't trust you" and sometimes it's "I'd like to
understand why you made the change so I can write better", but in either
case, it's a golden opportunity to build a relationship in which the author
learns to respect and trust your expertise. I've often photocopied pages
from a style guide to explain and justify a point--and occasionally, upon
re-examination of my position, found that I couldn't justify my change,
admitted that I blew it, and backed down and let the author's original
stand. (Or proposed a compromise that I _could_ justify.)

On the other hand, in what was simultaneously one of my proudest and least
noble moments, I once stared a particularly obstreperous author in the eye,
and said something very much like: "The problem is that English grammar,
unlike French and German grammar, doesn't let us mix to mix the genitive
form of a plural gerund with the subjunctive voice in an absolute or
relative clause."* Said author blinked, rebooted his "adversarial mode"
software, and responded. "Oh. Well, as long as you had a good reason for the

* Yes, that's mostly gibberish, in case you were wondering--a purely
creative invention combining a bunch of largely unrelated grammatical terms.
<g> But I was right, he was wrong, and I simply lacked the vocabulary to
explain why. I could've spent an hour looking it up, or I could've fought
dirty. Given the state of my relationship with the author at that point, I
opted for instant gratification. <g>

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"Do I contradict myself?/ Very well, then I contradict myself,/ I am large,
I contain multitudes." -- Walt Whitman


*** Deva(tm) Tools for Dreamweaver and Deva(tm) Search ***
Build Contents, Indexes, and Search for Web Sites and Help Systems
Available 4/30/01 at http://www.devahelp.com or info -at- devahelp -dot- com

Sponsored by DigiPub Solutions Corp, producers of PDF 2001 Conference East,
June 4-6, Baltimore, MD. Now covering Acrobat 5. Early registration deadline
April 27. http://www.pdfconference.com.

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit
http://www.raycomm.com/techwhirl/ for more resources and info.

Previous by Author: Creating inch and metric tutorials (longish)?(Take II)
Next by Author: How to protect Powerpoint presentations?
Previous by Thread: Thanks
Next by Thread: Re: Explaining your edits (was: Whaddaya know?)

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads