Sometimes, he just can’t wrap his mind around “corrections” made to a manuscript.

This is a follow-up to “Sometimes, he rants about the occasional lack of professional skills from some of his so-called colleagues,” a post from about a week ago.

For those who didn’t read it, here’s the short version: I am fed up with some of my fellow freelance editors for being so truly bad at their jobs, because it is in turn bad for authors, readers, and other freelance editors. Also, I am sneaky like ninja sometimes test my colleagues by having one of my many spies get a free sample edit, to see what other freelance editors are capable of. (Feel free to do the same to me; I don’t mind.)

Last week, I did this, just to see what corrections/suggestions would come back, and I’m going to share a few, ah, key passages with you so you can see, too.

(I wish I could show you the red-marked manuscript, but I can’t copy it here with all the “track changes” intact to show what was done to the original. That document is… eye-opening.)

There’s a problem from the very first paragraph. Compare and contrast, if you will…

The original version:

I slept in someone’s tool shed on a pile of canvas sacking, that first night after I made my escape.  I didn’t think I was entirely safe, but… safe enough, surely.  They would have no way of knowing which Door I’d gone through, or even that I was missing, until it was too late.

And now, the “corrected” version:

That first night after I made my escape I slept in someone’s tool shed on a pile of canvas sacking. I didn’t think it was entirely safe, but… safe enough surely? They would have no way of knowing which Door I’d gone through, or even that I was missing, until it was too late.

Questions, and only questions, get question marks. That second sentence is not a question. Also, where the fuck is the comma in the first sentence?

Here’s a little writing trick you may not have heard of before: End a sentence with whatever you want to emphasize. Yesterday I talked to Eddie has a different emphasis from I talked to Eddie yesterday. In the first version, whom you spoke to is emphasized; in the second, it’s when. Maybe it’s possible, in the above sample paragraph, that the author wants to put emphasis on the character having escaped from somewhere rather than on where he slept afterward, yeah?

Let’s look at a single sentence from further along.

Original:

A few days passed, I think. 

“Corrected”:

A few days passed, I think, my consciousness of time was blurry. 

Whether you think that extra bit is needed or not (but, for gods’ sakes, why?), shouldn’t there be some punctuation other than a comma after think? (That’s a rhetorical question. Of course there should be.) Shouldn’t the extra bit, if it has to stay, be a bit less clunky? (I’d suggest changing consciousness to awareness, if it were someone else’s writing, but that’s all I’d do: suggest.) Also, doesn’t the I think part already imply that the character isn’t certain?

The manuscript was sent to the sample editor under a female pen name. I do wonder if the editor would have trusted the author a bit more and thus made fewer “corrections” to narrative voice if the pen name had been male. Past experiments say yes.

Still here? Well, in that case, have another:

The original version:

There is, at times, a strange comfort to be had in knowing that one can always die as a last act of defiance.

“Corrected”:

There are, at times, a strange comfort to be had in knowing that, as a last act of defiance, one can always die.

Yep, you saw it. That “corrected” version has a serious verb problem. The verb is belongs with comfort, not times. *sigh* This is why we can’t have nice things…

This “editor” (yes, children, I do know how to use quotation marks to indicate so-called) also wanted, The sound and tone of her voice was soothing (which should say were rather than was, if it must be written) rather than just, Her voice was soothing. Because we must not add extra words and state the obvious (except when we add extra words to make a character state that they’re stating the obvious, apparently).

 

 

 

 

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About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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One Response to Sometimes, he just can’t wrap his mind around “corrections” made to a manuscript.

  1. Pingback: Commentition Auspicious August 2016 | I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

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