Posted in Language

Wherefore editing?

I found this note in my editorial diary. It was an undated entry, but I suppose it was probably written several months ago.

Language is only a tool of communication, like a finger pointing to the moon or a boat crossing a river.

As long as it serves the purpose of communicating a message for the intended audience in a way that is (hopefully) clear, it doesn’t really matter whether the message is “perfect” in grammar.

As the saying goes, when the boat reaches the destination, we don’t need the boat anymore.

Likewise, I believe that there is something that transcends editing, or that transcends the limitations of the written word.

A poorly constructed or poorly edited sentence sometimes may be more impactful than an impeccably composed but dry, prosaic prose.

How impactful a piece of writing is depends on factors such as:

  • who the writer is
  • the context or circumstances in which it is written
  • who the audience is

For example, a heartfelt thank you note from a child that is clumsily written is worth more than a contrived speech that is pedantically delivered by a conservative politician who supports the oppressive empire.