So… in a perfect world, I would occasionally bring you a bit of insight or two from Seth Godin’s blog every few months or so, but the world is far from perfect. Hence, here we are: Two pieces from Seth’s blog in as many days. Sue me for wanting to share. Here it is:
Just got some work back from a new copyeditor hired by my publisher. She did a flawless job. She also wrecked my work. Totally wrecked it.
By sanding off every edge, removing every idiom, making each and every fact literally correct, she made it boring and dry and mechanical.
If they have licenses for copyeditors, she should have hers revoked.
I need to be really clear. She’s not at fault. She did exactly what she was supposed to do. The fault lies in the job description, not the job. If the job description of your lawyer or boss or editor or client is to make sure everything is pure and perfect and proven and beyond reproach, they are making things worse, not better. (Unless you’re in the vaccine business).
Almost everything you do has some sort of copyediting filter. It might be the legal eagle or the graphic supervisor or the customer service police. They’re excellent at making round things fit perfectly through round holes.
Boring and ignored is fine with them, because no one complains.
Fortunately, copy editors have a remedy. It’s a word called STET. Which means, “leave it alone, it was fine.” Time to teach that to your editors, wherever they may be. Maybe there should be a t-shirt.
If all you want is safe, have baby food for dinner. Just leave me out of it.
Seen it happen. I’ve never had to punch anyone in the eyeball for sanding off any of my work’s edges, but I’ve spent many a sleepless night re-writing pieces or reworking images or layouts that a subordinate or contractor completely stripped of any semblance of an edge… or style… or voice. It always sucks. And you always end up feeling sorry for the poor kid who screwed the pooch, because ultimately, maybe it wasn’t entirely their fault. (How the hell are they supposed to know how to write like me or edit images the way I envisioned it when I shot them?) Design is a very personal thing. Designers are usually control freaks for a reason.
And compulsive perfectionists.
I feel your pain, Seth.