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Theory

Editing Principle 40: Write Like a Hack (Sometimes)

dargeresque

Lately I’ve worked with a couple of clients struggling through revisions on early drafts. Neither of them had trouble with the topic; they knew their stuff. Both had published books before. Both had a lot riding on the current project. One needed tenure. The other wanted to capture his conflicted feelings about humanitarian aid work after thirty-plus years…

Editing Principle 39: On Ghostwriting, Part I

webuyegate copy

The aspect of Wherewithal’s work that generates the most interest in personal conversation, by far, is ghostwriting. People always have questions. Really? Who for? In some cases they’re hoping I’ll say “Jay-Z” and are mildly disappointed when I give them a name they’ve never heard of or, more often, say I cannot say because of…

Editing Principle 38: Bullets Be Damned

bulletin board

Edward Tufte recently tweeted a snippet of the physicist Richard Feynman grumbling about bullet lists. From the sound of it, Feynman encountered bullets for the first time during his work investigating the Challenger shuttle explosion in 1986, and was not impressed: “Then we learned about ‘bullets’–little black circles in front of phrases that were supposed…

Editing Principle 37: Orwell’s Six Rules

plantsinwindow_closeup

I’m a fan of George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language.” I recommend it all the time, and strongly recommend it to people reluctant to use short words when chewier ones can be found — which is to say that deep down they worry that using “use” doesn’t sound as smart as saying “utilize.” Orwell would disagree. The full…

Editing Principle 36: Learn to Code

horta_greenhouse

This past summer we decided to make good on our resolution to learn to code. So we began by taking a class at General Assembly. There’s much more to be said about integrating web design into our editing practice, and soon, but meanwhile here’s a link to the final project: www.horta.co. We took material that didn’t present well…

Editing Principle 35: Referred Pain

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There’s a physiological phenomenon in which a problem in one part of the body causes tenderness in a different part. A stressed cervical vertebrae, for instance, may be experienced not as a sore neck but as acute pain in the right shoulder. This is known as “referred pain”; where the source of the pinch and where we feel it are…

Editing Principle 34: Try Conversational Assists

May Day

Someone skilled at assists is typically: —Not concerned with delivering the right answers —Okay with saying something underwhelming, so long as it helps someone else arive at a helpful insight —Not worried about being acknowledged for having delivered the right answer, or for saying something clever, or for contributing much of anything to the conversation,…

Editing Principle 31: Great Writing Surprises*

controlled burn2

Fashion designer Hedi Slimane, commenting once on a Dior collection: “Oh we did something so awful this morning.” Miuccia Prada, after a show: “Oh, wasn’t that awful?” She meant it as a compliment. She meant there was something a bit off in the presentation that prompted people to reconsider their ideas of what beautiful is,…