Re: brush up editing skills

Subject: Re: brush up editing skills
From: Tom Neuburger <Tom_Neuburger -at- LTX-TR -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 1996 11:39:08 U

Reply to: RE>brush up editing skills

Folks,

Sorry to chime in one more time, and to speak so strongly, but it's
hard to stay out of this one, and these comments are from the heart.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY -- I strongly second (third, and fourth) David Hailey,
Miki Magyar, and others who recommend that writers teach. Nothing else
will so improve your writing and at the same time benefit two
professions that need the help.


I'm one of those who has both taught writing (at the college level,
for some years) and written professionally (for companies, for
publishers, for hire). I have a large foot in each profession.

The teaching profession has frankly embarrassed me for years.
David is not too pessimistic when he says --

> colleges and
> universities use teachers unqualified to be technical
> writers to teach technical writing. I can count on one hand
> all of the schools to which I would send my son.
. . .
> Instead, in many, if not most, cases, students get
> comp-rhetoric-teachers-turned-WWW-guru who don't know a
> link from a node, but know they don't want to teach 101
> anymore.

The -best- you can say about a large number of writing
teachers (of all flavors) is that they make students feel good.

Many don't teach writing at all (some of the oddest teaching strategies
pass muster in colleges and community colleges), and they can't
themselves write well because their writing is rarely judged by others.
Teachers, remember, are at the top of the food chain in academia.
(I once got a wonderful letter of recommendation from the head
of an English department that was so badly written I couldn't use it.)

Writers, on the other hand, must survive based on their work.
But the growth of a writer is always limited by exposure--
people are generally as good as they need to be. Some drive
themselves hard to improve, but many of us get comfortable, write
well enough for our market, and plug away with what works.
Unfortunately, the tech market is not the most demanding.

Teaching represents a golden opportunity -- both to do well for
others and to improve your own work. One of the best ways to
refine your instinct for bad writing is to expose yourself to
bad student writing. (By the way, it will shock you to see what
gets an A in other classes.)

And the best way to improve your hands-on editing skills, next to
working with badass biker editors in bigtime publishing houses, is
to teach those students, sentence by sentence, what would work
better in the next draft.

My obvious frustration is coming through, and I apologize for that.
It's been a weird ride. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Tom (who needs his nap) Neuburger

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