A Good Editor | Bleader

A Good Editor

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Newspapers under pressure to save a buck or two often turn their scythes against their copy editors, trimming those ranks in the forlorn hope that “well, maybe no one will notice.” Readers do notice: the fact that isn’t factual, the sentence that makes no sense, the paragraph that loses its way, the piece that doesn't know how to get to its point or when to end. Over the years I've received dozens of phone calls and emails siccing me on writers for publishing the sort of mistakes that good editors are supposed to catch, mistakes that careless editors sometimes introduce.

Unlike those abused writers, I have no excuse. My copy has been edited for years by senior editor Kitry Krause, whose belief in language as a precision tool exceeds my own. The act of writing blinds the writer; her job was to make me see. Some weeks this meant my seeing that my column had no point, other weeks that the point hadn't been thought through, and occasionally that the point was so insipid or offensive it would risk my reputation. I never learned how to enjoy these moments of revelation. But sulkiness comes and goes; gratitude is forever. Kitry just left the Reader, which, I hasten to add, promptly replaced her. A word to the writers at the Atlantic Monthly whom my friend will soon be editing: if I threw a big enough fit she'd let me squirm under the bar; it was, after all, my story and my name on it. But she would not lower the bar.

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