I’ve often said that writing is the most rewarding and equally psychotic thing I’ve ever ventured into. I care more about my writing than any other public display I present, thus when it is critiqued I listen, and perhaps I die just a bit as well. This was none more evident to me than during the following exercise, as I worked with my wife on her writing.
I aspire to become a teacher in the field of Communications. I’ve always held a passion for teaching and this exercise allowed me the ability to take up the role. My wife is a freshman at Salt Lake Community College, majoring in Criminal Justice. She’s never really been fond of writing but she understood that going back to school would mean she was in for a lot of it. She’s currently finishing her first developmental writing course and will begin English 1010 in the spring.
She’s writing a paper discussing her reactions and opinions on the movie, Sling Blade. I’ve been critical of her writing all semester and been looking for opportunities to teacher her ways to improve. As we sat down to edit this paper I knew she wasn’t prepared for me to tear it apart. I know that feeling; everyone wants to know if their doing a good job, but it seems we love to get defensive when our work is is formally judged. Finding humility in our work is perhaps the best way we can grow as writers.
Her paper originally began without a lead. I discussed with her the importance of writing a great beginning that held the ability to hook her reader. I presented her with the idea to discuss her feelings directly after watching the film; this provided a more personal and realistic approach to the setup of her story.
She impressed me with her knowledge of the subject matter, but she seemed to struggle with sentence structure and wordiness. I advised her to remove the clutter with sentences such as:
“On that note I am going to go back to crime that Karl committed, where he admits to killing the neighbor boy because he though the was hurting his mother but once she says what was really going on Karl decides to also kill his mother since he thought it was BAD what they were doing.”
This sentence was reduce to simply read:
“Karl has in-fact committed a murder as he admits to killing his mother along with a neighbor boy.”
The second sentence is much cleaner and less cluttered. The details eradicated from the first sentence could then be illustrated in the sentences following.
We also worked on punctuation issues. I found many improperly punctuated words and sentences; an overall lack of punctuation seems to be the main issue. Perhaps new writers shy away from punctuation out of fear they will use it incorrectly. I told her to remember that too many commas are better than none.
She had a fair grip on plurals and possessives but did need some help with improper capitalization. It may be a common misconception that emphasis is better served using all caps, but it just looks unprofessional.
I have enjoyed the opportunity to coach my wife in her writing and from a teaching standpoint I absolutely loved it. However, I can say that I truly and sincerely do not want to be a career editor. This may come off as slightly contradictory with my aspirations to become a teacher. However, the difference between teaching and editing lies not in the action of correction, but the motives behind it. Working editors have a motive to correct in order to make their own jobs run smoother, this can put a great deal of stress on the reporter; if you don’t look good, it directly affects your editor. Teachers correct with the motive to improve their students, not because it affects the teacher’s job directly, but because it affects the students themselves.
The editing mistake this week comes from the wonderful world of social media. I'm involved in a closed Facebook discussion group about pro wrestling. We typically get some engaging conversation, but some people choose to break every single grammar and punctuation rule they can. Even when I can decipher a valid point from their argument, I just can't continue with them in a discussion, it's too much work.