Grammar, Punctuation, and Etiquette Oh My!
In my last post, I acted as if I revered editors. As if I wrote the post to thank them for endeavoring to make my writings more precise, concise, and, dare I say – within the bounds of proper English.
That was last time, not this time. This go-around, we writers fight back. We summon our courage and mount a counter-offensive. Come on, artists, rise up – be careful, though, the prose police are waiting to crush our rebellion.
Last time I offered a compliment, a handout of gratitude. In return, my writing was change-tracked and moved around like a surgeon dissecting my bowels. When a piece I’ve written comes back, it feels like I’m dying in the last scene from Braveheart. FREEDOM! I say.
Sure, we all need editors. Everyone knows I do. As I write this, I know they will leave some dangling participle as if to secretly communicate to their devious editor friends – here’s another one they say, what a dope. That’s how they communicate among their Funk & Wagnalls clan. Normal-looking, friendly people by day, editors turn to the dark side by night. They’re ready to slash your words and change your effort’s very meaning. You lose confidence. You pay them more. They tell you to take a grammar class, forget creative writing – you’re not good enough. Learn the basics. Oh, and one other thing. “I charge extra for boredom.“
Writers beware. Your beautifully crafted prose will come back neatly wrapped as if it’s that sirloin steak you bought down at Earl’s Butcher Shop.
I’m wise to them now. I won’t allow them to mute my voice, my particular brand of dribble that begins in my brain, rolls down my chin, and unto the page. What’s that? you say. My editor left in a few sentences with a passive voice. Now she’s got me. I’ve shown weakness. We’re all doomed.
Here is my writer’s battle plan – Gary’s guide to mystifying, confounding, and confusing your editor. See, I just used three words that mean the same thing. Will they leave it in? Will they delete two of the words and move on? Or will they waste time, make more money and embed a comment causing me to decide? This is one of their most devious traps. Instead of battling their overuse of proper English, you are forced to stew over their indecisiveness. When an editor embeds a comment for you to ponder, they are forcing you to fight yourself and question your sacred voice. They’ve trapped you. You’re now a casualty of your own friendly fire.
Writer beware. I told you editors were devious. Now you know, forever warned.
Battling the King’s English – A writer’s counter-offensive.
Have someone edit your work – do you really need it? Of course, you don’t. Amazon, the world’s largest bookseller, contains nearly 33 million published books. Do you think they’re all professionally edited? Hell no. You’ve got your own unique voice. You’ve got Grammar Girl on your Dell 386. Who needs anyone else? Go ahead and publish your novel. It’s easy. Then imagine yourself placing your new grain of sand onto the beach at Ocho Rios.
Wait. My editor just embedded a comment. She says that my writing has taken a dangerous turn, and things are running amuck. “One minute, you’re extolling the virtues of us selfless and supportive editors, willing to sacrifice our time to support you on your journey as if you are Don Quixote. Next, you turn into a crazed college junior, on spring break dreaming of inventing SPF-95 and testing prototypes on Ipanema beach.”
“Was that a question?” I say.
“Perhaps you should keep some of your thoughts to yourself,” She says.
“My tropical beach story wasn’t going anywhere anyway,” I say.
“Too bad. You have a knack for romance.”
“It all ends the same,” I say. “ You start wanting to invent the next great suntan lotion and test it on select subjects. Next thing you know, you go broke selling bolts of cloth on a beach in the Seychelles. You sense the need. You see the shortage. Surprisingly, there is no market. Destitute, you live out your days living over a steam grate in Philadelphia.”
“Hi, group. I’m a writer.”
Finding an editor.
Where do they lurk? How do they feed? I believe David Attenborough did a four-hour documentary on the native habitat of editors. It started as six hours. Two hours were devoted to high definition, 4K footage of editors in their natural environment, doing their work, plying their craft. I found this fascinating. Most viewers did not. The film’s a masterpiece, a rare glimpse of the red pen. What, no green eye shades? Apparently, this vestige of the Mesozoic Era is just another victim of evolution.
Yes, editors evolve. They adapt. Now, technology allows editors to fleece your wallet from anywhere on Earth. Well, almost anywhere. If you’re writing and visiting the Titanic, they still don’t have Wi-Fi. Editors guard their nests like hawks guard their young. Get too close, and their talons can slash the adverbs write out of you. Not wanting a global crisis like climate change to go to waste, an editor’s home office retains a 1970s-style telephone answering machine. Their corporate office is listed as Downey, California, but their actual location is a Sandal’s resort in the Caicos.
Another comment. “Bad Gary.”
Would you like another Mai-Tia, ma’am?
“Hush! I’m on the fourth page of my writer’s run-on sentence. It’s riveting. So clear. He’s a genius. Book my room for another week.”
Not everyone had Sister Clair De Lune as a ninth-grade English teacher. But everyone believes they can edit. Sadly, few can. We all catch something. Try this experiment. Send your writing to ten friends. Ok, well, five friends then. Every one of them will catch something different. Next, look at the five examples. Did they find your grammar and punctuation errors? Did they change the intent of what you wrote? When you are ready to hire a professional editor, first ask yourself, why?
If your vanity is still intact and you aspire to become the next Margaret Atwood, by all means, hire an editor. Even the best writers need editors. I have no idea what makes a good editor for a great writer. I do know a good editor can help make even a novice writer better.
Here then, are my observations of a good editor.
They can write better than you. They read more than you. They know more stuff than you. They purposely don’t fix all your mistakes. They embed a comment to guide and teach you. At first, it annoys you and slows you down. Then you begin to learn.
Finding an editor is as easy as picking up a single grain of sand from the beach. Just pick the right one.