Monday, March 7, 2016

The Editor’s Curse

In an early episode of “Monk,” police captain Leland Stottlemeyer describes a case in which the quirky, OCD detective first revealed his ability to see details that others missed or chose to overlook.
Stottlemeyer is impressed by Monk’s astute detecting skill but is also annoyed by the detective’s inability to shut it off. Monk seems to agree when he says, “It’s a blessing . . . and a curse.”

This political year, be afraid, be very afraid!
I know the feeling. I consider myself a pretty good editor. I can usually find a way to improve a manuscript I am editing by making it more direct as well as more correct. The correctness side is where the blessing and curse comes in. I have a good eye for spotting typos, grammatical mistakes, or writing inconsistencies. But I have a lot of trouble shutting off my editor’s eye and ear or reading without a red pencil in hand. I may tell myself, “Let it go” [cue Idina Menzel here], but all too often I just can’t.
Here is just one recent example. The other night, Audrey and I watched several political candidates and analysts discuss the current political campaigns. One analyst noted that Ted Cruz has a “tough road to hoe” to catch up with Donald Trump in their battle for the Republican presidential nomination. Only moments later, Bernie Sanders explained his campaign strategy and added that he too had a “tough road to hoe” in the coming days


I suspect that neither of these gentlemen had ever wielded a hoe. If they had it would certainly not have been to help them travel along a road. On the other hand, if they were trying to plant seeds (of success) in hard soil, they might have encountered a “tough row to hoe.” No big deal, you say, but it drove me crazy. And I drove Audrey a little crazy when I pointed it out—several times.
Where to turn when language mistakes drive you to drink

Now this idiom slip up is clearly not the biggest idiocy of this year’s political campaigning. And most people would probably point out far worse things that both the candidates and pundits have said and are saying every day. But those of us with the “editor’s curse” often get so stuck in the mire of language snafus. And the road ahead this year seems like it’s going to be both a muddy and bumpy one.  
Where is an editor when you need one?

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