Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Um, No One Asked You. By: Karen Pilarski

To be a successful writer a person needs to develop a thick skin. The tidbit of advice was offered to staff writers on my college newspaper when I was editor. An editor's main job is to make articles for a newspaper polished and ready for print.

In my experience as a writer and editor there have been people who lacked the tough and firm skin needed to accept constructive criticism. In the career of a writer, the ego has to be left at the door.

There was a student who wrote an article and it needed to be punched up a bit. I chewed on a pencil and started typing away. Sentences were shortened and cleaner language was inserted.

Her article was published in the paper but she was not a happy camper. Sobbing she ran to the faculty adviser of the paper. The protest and wailing was over the use of a few words she didn't know the meaning of. The article was not an editorial but a feature article.

The next day the faculty adviser mentioned to the whole staff what an editor does. An editor's job is to make the writer look good.

My work has often been edited and changed up. Once the work is delivered to the editor it is literally out of the writer's hands.

I did a feature story as a freelancer about a local festival a few years ago. I was able to detect a bigger story than just covering a day at the fest. Through interviews with organizers and volunteers I found that the proceeds were shared with other organizations.  I typed up my story and emailed it to the editor.

When it came out the article was different than what I sent to the editor. She had polished it and added splashier terms. You know what? I was happy that she took the time to make my writing shine.

My story was published on the front page!

One of my pet peeves is someone rudely correcting a person's grammar. That and inconsiderate pedestrians who don't say thank you when the door is held open for them. Both irritants make me want scream until lungs no longer produce breath.

The topic is hot button issue for many writers.  Recently a journalist friend posted a link to an article by Hillary Kelly titled "The Best Response to Grammar Nazis, Ever Stephen Fry nails it."

She discusses the annoyance of random and anonymous finger pointers. The non writers with too much time on their hands who pick part every error.

Kelly stated "  It's occasionally embarrassing, but I can usually shrug it off. After all, I'm not the only one who has accidentally made up a word." She fought back the urge to fight back after being attacked. I understand her pain.

Everyone has that one (or a few) obnoxious friend, husband, uncle that will call you on a language blunder.  The usage of "I seen" or "I saw" suddenly becomes life or death situation that needs to be shared. The so called grammar of greatness suddenly becomes the editor missing from your life.

It is not so much the statement but the delivery that reddens eyes and blow steam from ears.

I don't mind constructive feedback and a mentioning of errors. I welcome a less rude form of pointing out mistakes.

Recently I had a reporter friend offer to edit something for me after reading it. This was fine and appreciated.

Kelly's article included a creative work of art from writer Stephen Fry. Watch the video for yourself below this post.

What it boils down to is the intentions of people suggesting things. Do they really care about prose and quality of the written word? Could it just be a case of an insecure person who wants to feel a sense of superiority? I'm leaning towards the latter.

 Stephen Fry's  "Kinetic Typography"