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A few years after I joined the Weekly Standard, then-literary editor Joseph Bottum asked if I was more interested in writing or editing. I said the latter. I never wrote for a school paper and only had a few clips at the magazine. Over time, I hoped to gain the confidence to make writing a full-time occupation. But until then, editing would be my safety net, allowing me to hide behind other people's bylines, looking for typos, grammatical errors, and eventually matters of style. Bottum gave me all sorts of advice, sharing various tricks of the trade, and went on to explain how he stole the hands off Healy's clock tower in Georgetown. Did I mention this was at a bar?
Shortly after that, my former colleague Christopher Caldwell asked a similar question. When I told him my focus was on editing, he wondered if anyone ever read a piece and thought, "Man, that story was so well edited!"
Editors - Writer - Copy - Everyone - Author
Probably only editors have thought that, assuming they're familiar with a particular writer's raw copy. Everyone else is oblivious, assuming an author never confuses "its" for "it's" or misspells the word "public." The only time editors come to mind are when the goofs do make it into print. "Who is your editor?" one reader recently demanded.
Editing was considered essential to the journalistic process, and I kept at it for the next 20 years. But a few months ago writer Nick Ripatrazone posed the question, "Is Line Editing a Lost Art?"
Editors - Sentences - Tension - Clarity - Sentences
"Line editors tighten sentences when tension and clarity is missing, but they also give sentences breath when constrained," Ripatrazone writes in Literary Hub. "Beyond removing clichés, they excise a writer's pet words and mannered constructions. Line editors help sentences build into paragraphs, and paragraphs flow into pages. They keep a writer's eye and ear...
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The beatings will continue until moral improves.