Tag Archives: editing

Prepositional problems

editing

From a  major New England newspaper (OK, from its website): “A man was injured Monday after a crash on I-95”.

Therein is one of those writing errors found far too often in news stories and headlines these days: problematic prepositions.

The man wasn’t injured AFTER the crash, unless by some horrible stroke of bad luck he managed to get out of his mangled car, only to get smacked by another vehicle, or, less dramatically, to trip over a hunk of crash debris.

No, sadly, he was injured IN the crash. “After” implies a delay, and in 99 percent of the stories in which this construction is found, the injury is caused by the accident, not by a subsequent event.

Same thing with “killed”: The victim might have died after the crash, but he probably wasn’t killed after it.

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Open to criticism

Don’t need to be edited? Think again. As New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff says, “the difference between an amateur and a professional is that an amateur really likes everything they do.”

Mankoff may be talking about cartoonists, but the principle applies in most every field. To be your best, you’ve got to be open to constructive criticism.

The best writers I’ve worked with over the years have also been the ones who welcome questions and feedback from editors. And the best editors are the ones who respect the writer’s skills and know how to tune up a story without nitpicking it to death.

It’s not just writers and editors. How many dysfunctional websites — heck, how many dysfunctional companies — are that way because somebody in charge thinks they’ve got all the answers?

When you think you know better than everybody else — especially your users — you’re only setting yourself up to have somebody prove you wrong.

Find the Bob Mankoff interview in the New York Times here.

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