Confessions of an editor

Washington Post’s Outlook editor Carlos Lozada has reviewed Roy Peter Clark’s book “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times” and includes some of his own gems for word nerds:

Confession No. 1: I edit with a tweet in mind.

… When I’m editing an essay or opinion piece, I try to make sure the final version includes some memorable lines that I imagine getting posted, shared, tweeted and retweeted. I’ll even slice a smart but lengthy passage for that purpose. “Trust me,” I advise the author, “you’ll get more readers this way.”

Yes, anticipating the social-media response has become part of the editing craft.

Confession No. 4: The writer and editor in me don’t like each other.

As an editor, I don’t just prune, I slash and burn. But the writer in me desires what the editor in me cannot abide. I treasure every precious construction, every not-so-clever aside. (Like this one.) So the cuts I make to my own drafts are marginal. I compress rather than select; shake, never prune. Until another editor does it for me.

My reluctance is pointless, because we don’t need many words to evoke beauty and emotion, let alone deliver insight and clarity.


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