Re: Rules, rules, rules (was Whaddya Know)

Subject: Re: Rules, rules, rules (was Whaddya Know)
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 10 Apr 2001 09:19:49 -0700

Andrew Plato wrote:
> If you're a writer: rules are not as relevant. You may pick and choose from
> them as they suit your needs. Your focus is not to obey the rules, but transfer
> your idea from brain to page. Rules may help that process, but again, they are
> just a mechanism to an end.
> If you are an editor: you don't really have such choices. The rules are the
> rules. And while they may change and shift around, the basic mentality is
> there: you must enforce structure upon that which is foreign.

Yeah, but...

Rather than saying that the rules are less relevant to writers, I'd
say that they have to know them in a different way. Writers need to
know them so well that they use them by instinct. Editors have to
have a more conscious awareness of the rules, because they often
need to communicate them.

However, I'm a little nervous about making too strong a dichotomy
here. A first rate editor, who can make suggestions about how to
improve copy, has something of a writer's feel for language.
Similarly (and despite the mythology), many of the best writers have
an editor's conscious understanding of language. One of my favorite
writers, for example, was so erudite in grammar (and in practically
every other subject imaginable, come to think of it), that he
regularly included little virtuoso displays such as a readable
sentence that was three quarters of a page long and contained about
half a dozen semi-colons and colons apiece, yet was perfectly
readable. For a writer, having a bit of a editor's viewpoint is
especially valuable, if only because so many have to edit their own
manuscripts at one time or other.

I'd also like to mention that editing is not so much the process of
imposing a structure that is foreign to the material as it is
enhancing the existing structure. The only exceptions are when
either the writer or the editor is an amateur, or when the writer
has gone haring off in an obviously unsuitable direction.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com

"Rain and hard religion, the gift of a northern youth,
We make a mess of tenderness, we hit you with the truth,
There are days when we're almost human, days when it's shout or
The roughest kind of tenderness - we sing because we must."
-OysterBand, "No Reason to Cry"


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