Depending on what career path you have chosen to pursue, you will inevitably stumble upon a facet of your job that you hate. For me, this is dealing with egotistical asshats who submit their work for editing, only to complain that their work has been edited. It is a simple concept that underlines this issue: if you cannot deal with criticism, don’t ask for someone to be critical of your work.
Writers and aspiring writers should expect to be edited. They should expect to have their work handed back to them resembling a cadaver, blood-spattered with corrections. It is what makes us better writers. It is what drives us to hone our craft. When submitting articles or reviews to an editor, blog, website, newspaper, creative director etc. not for one second do we think our work will go straight to print. Even the most seasoned writers have their work tampered with; at best constructive criticism is to be celebrated and appreciated, at worst to be expected and heeded.
Being a writer and editor, I am familiar with both sides of th
e coin. Whilst I can see how irritating it is to have the piece that you poured heart and soul into fiddled with, I am becoming increasingly frustrated with people who submit their work for edit, ask your opinion, only to get fiercely defensive about any comments you may make.
Not only do they decide not to take your advice (no skin off my nose matey, I’m not the one shitting out errors faster than a dysentery-riddled typhoid victim) but they go on to accuse you of having an agenda. Yep, that’s why I do this job – it’s all part of my masterplan to rule the world. It’s a conspiracy theory in association with the OED and the Guardian subbing desks.
When these types of people submit their work, all they actually want is a pat on the back: a “by golly, I had no idea you were such an amazing word-smith! Allow me to present you with this Pulitzer.” A word in your ears aspiring scribes: EDITING IS NOT EASY.
It takes time, a whole lot of precious time. Yes, it takes patience and time, to do it right. Send an editor a 500 word article riddled with spelling errors, layout errors, grammatical errors, factual errors, syntactical errors, not to mention nonsensical sentences and obscure, irrelevant references, and you surely can’t expect a gold star in return. Editing a poorly written article, and fashioning it into something engaging and legible can take DAYS. It is often tedious work, especially when the mistakes can so easily be corrected with the click of a button.
Although I shouldn’t be too hard on these mistake-makers. The invention of the spell-check is fairly new. I mean, it’s hardly out of the technological blocks. It’s not as though it exists on every computer in the world, in some form. It’s not as though Google, Thesaurus.com or Dictionary.com offer free and quick searches for double checking is it? Nothing like the old tried and tested print dictionary that can be picked up in a million shops across the UK for less than a packet of cigarettes eh?
But it’s not just the deviance from linguistic rules that is so infuriating for an editor. It’s also the content. Often, the crux of an article can be devastatingly brilliant, but the execution a litt
le lacklustre. Living in the age of the blog, there appears to be a belief amongst aspiring writers that you don’t have to be able to spell, or even possess a wonderful turn of phrase in order to get published. Either someone will fix the mistakes or more importantly, the mere effort of articulating ones thoughts in a vaguely lucid manner will be celebrated: Felicitations! Gold star for your exercise book? Another ten pence in your pocket money? I’m all for having a go: but at the end of the day, that isn’t always enough. There should be some merit behind your attempts.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons edits have gone unheeded:
“I just write from my heart”.
Great, that’s genuinely great. I wouldn’t want you to write from anywhere else. But that sentence still doesn’t make sense.
“The mistakes add to the point I’m making”.
No, no they don’t. They certainly add to the belief that you are not v
ery bright, but adding to the point? Sorry, no cigar.
“Surely these mistakes don’t matter: it’s what I’m saying that counts”
The mistakes render what you are saying completely nonsensical.
What it essentially comes down to is that sometimes, the truth is not always what you want to hear. If you ask for someone’s honest opinion, you have to be prepared for said opinion to actually be HONEST. If you want someone to tell you how pretty and brilliant and special you are, call mummy. This is a JOB. This is not an excuse for ego massage.