or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Pro Bono

Regular readers know I have three basic themes, with a lot of overlap: 1) amusing or appalling typos and grammatical errors, 2) interesting etymologies, and 3) rants about the lack of editors in pretty much every publication of every description on the face of the Earth. This is going to be in the last category, so if you feel like you've heard it before, feel free to come back tomorrow, or whenever I work up enough umbrage to post again.

Here is most of a paragraph from a recent Slate piece about DNA testing and adoption:

In an age of sophisticated genetic testing, the concept of anonymity is rapidly fading. With some clever sleuthing—tests that can track down ancestral origins, donor numbers, and bits of biographical information—parents and offspring can find out the donors. "With DNA testing and Google, there's no such thing as anonymity anymore," says Wendy Kramer, the founder of the Donor Sibling Registry. "Donors are choosing anonymity because they're not educated," adds Kramer. "If they were properly educated on the consequences, then many would choose not to donate."

And here is a later paragraph:

"Donors are choosing anonymity because they're not educated," says Kramer. "If they were properly educated on the consequences, then many would choose not to donate."

What happened there is not the writer's fault. We cut and paste, rearrange sentences and paragraphs and clauses and words, positioning every element for the best effect, the clearest expression of what we mean. Sometimes we will decide, as the writer of that Slate piece did, that a certain quotation works better in a different part of the piece, so we cut it out and paste it where we want it. But maybe instead of cutting, we copy: it's an easy mistake to make, since the universal shortcut for copying is a function key plus C, and the equally universal shortcut for cutting is that same function key plus X, and they're side by side on the keyboard. So the writer, maybe working on a deadline, fails to notice what has happened, and leaves the same wad of text in their article in two places.

And an editor is meant to catch this sort of thing. And if there aren't have any editors, then such understandable, forgivable errors end up in print, and that, frankly, while possibly understandable (because editors cost money, and therefore damage the bottom line), is not forgivable.


Another reason why every piece of text needs an editor:

Oh. Oh, my.


Post a Comment

<< Home