Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, January 21, 2005

Editors ain't perfect.

Where would writers be without editors? Probably billed as illiterate fools. But you know what? Where would editors be without writers banging on their doors, askin’ why their precious articles or stories have been riddled with typos, mistakes and words not their own? Where, indeed. Writers need editors but editors need writers, too. If only to remember that, despite the powers of their red pens, they are still human. And they make mistakes.

Try as I might, I can’t humble myself with this idea. Because every time I see a mistake my Dear Editor has made with my work, it consumes me. It feels me with rage and contempt. No, my Dear Editors, I do not loathe you. I do not scream your name every time a mistake is seen. But in those first few moments, hours or days that I see the lack of editing prowess exercised with my work, I get angry. I am enraged, and I think I’m entitled to be. You know why? Because it’s got my name right there in the byline. It’s got me listed as the author of this poorly executed diatribe that somehow slipped through the cracks. Yes, I am bitter, Dear Editor. Very, very bitter.

And to add insult to injury, that mistake is mine to carry with me as I show the world exactly what kind of writer I am. And from what I’ve gathered in my clip file of articles littered with typos or names omitted, it looks like I’m the kind of writer with the same level of skills as a drunk, blind monkey smoking crack. Any other editor worth their skill would laughingly toss my work aside, mumbling how I wouldn’t know a verb from an adjective. Or how I must’ve written this piece while under the influence of some psychotic drug because LORD KNOWS a 4-year-old could write better than me.

Newspapers have that “Corrections” section. So do the magazines. But who really pays attention to those? Who really reads ‘em? Everything readers needed to know has already been culled from some poorly written piece; they don’t REALLY need to be told that John Paul Doe spells his name as “Johnpaul.” Do they? They don’t really care. But I do. You know why? Because it was my job to get the facts right. And thanks to my Dear Editor, I got those facts wrong.

Now I’m not going to name any names. I’m not going to point out every single mistake in a certain recent article of mine. But what I am going to do right here is complain. I can’t complain to my Dear Editor – I have, after all, an obligation to act in a PROFESSIONAL manner at all times – but I am going to complain here. Call me a “whiner,” if you will. I need to speak out. Because those mistakes are not mine.

Yes, we all make mistakes. Yes, we are ALL human beings capable of screwing up. But how hard is it for an editor to differentiate between “it’s” and “its”? And, let me ask you: What in the WORLD are “id tags”? Huh? Can someone please explain that one to me? Because my Dear Editor certainly didn’t.

In the end, though, after I’m done screaming, pounding my fists, pulling my hair out, sobbing into my hands and having a heart-to-heart chat with some friends online, I find it in myself to forgive them. I know that editors ain’t perfect. I know that, amid all the chaos of meeting deadlines and getting the galleys to the printer, things tend to get overlooked. I mean, I’ve even seen typos in books by famous authors. It happens. People make mistakes. And next time around, if we’re lucky enough, we’ll get to come clean via “the editors regret the error.” Well, it isn’t just the editors regretting the errors, folks. It’s us, the writers, the people responsible for getting our stories straight.

And, believe me, we try.


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