Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Edit or perish

[If you caught the original spelling of the post title, you'll notice that it now makes a little more sense. Thank you Nancy. If I wanted to make up some clever explanation for the parish/perish pun, I'm sure I could. Especially in a post about editing. But when the red pen is right, I shouldn't look too hard for a way to make it wrong. No dignity in that.]

John McIntyre wrote Tuesday evening that he mixed himself a nice big Manhattan in honour of his last day at The Baltimore Sun. On Wednesday he explained in his final post that it's the result of "the grim economics of the newspaper busines."

We can rest assured that my post title is an overstatement. A reasonable voice like Mr McIntyre's will out. He's on Twitter, and that's where I expect to find news of his re-emergence.

He closed his antepenultimate post with the following two paragraphs that read very differently now that I know his desk is cleared.

So long as people have difficulty writing with precision and clarity, copy editing will be useful. Whether that usefulness will be recognized, however, is questionable. The 'dead-tree media' — newspapers, magazines, books — are dismissing their copy editors at an alarming rate to cut costs. Electronic media have never invested all that heavily in editors to begin with. These developments have been accompanied by a great deal of asinine rationalization to the effect that writers don’t really require all that much editing.

So, you smart young people who want to get into the paragraph game, who show some ability and enthusiasm for the act of editing, there is an enormous need for your services. The potential inner satisfactions of taking low-grade prose and turning it into something clearer, more forceful, and more precise have never been greater. Unfortunately, you may not be able to land a job, and any job you land is unlikely to lead to prosperity. For you, going into editing will be like following a monastic vocation. God bless you, and don’t forget to write.


  1. Welcome to the monastery, Mr. McIntyre.

  2. Your "correction" of your title ruined the direction of my first comment, which was playing on the monastic/parish connection...

  3. no no. because your comment responds to mcintyre's own monastic comment. if i was smarter i would have noted that and written 'parish' on purpose. since i didn't write it on purpose i can't leave it.

    i'm not bob ross. no stet on happy accidents here.


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