Sunday, April 1, 2012


Earlier in this blog, I said we'd discuss some of the edits we made to the stories we chose for publication in Issue #16. This idea didn't work for two reasons. First, I forgot to ask permission from the authors, who might not want us talking about the clumsier parts of their original entries. Second, none of the stories required all that much editing. Sure, we found an unnecessary "that" or two, but most of our editing came in the form of questions. 

For example, maybe one character had a line of dialogue that we thought was too harsh, or maybe too stupid or too smart, for the character as presented in the rest of the story. Or maybe there was a critical detail in a story that we thought could have been presented more clearly, because it confused at least one of our judges. 

So for now, it's back to examples of prose I think needs some editing even though it was published somewhere reputable. 

Food scientist Shirley O. Corriher wrote one of the best cookbooks and cooking instruction manuals I've ever seen. It's called Cookwise: The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking. If you cook or bake and you're not already teaching food science somewhere, you can probably learn quite a bit about cooking or baking from this book.

But in places, the prose could have used tighter editing. Here's an example from a section on cakes (p. 141 of the hardback edition).

Mixing methods play a major role in cake texture. Frequently there are no real rights or wrongs in cooking. As the saying goes, "One man's meat is another man's poison." Many times "right" is a matter of personal preference. From the very beginning you may as well do some soul searching and decide what kind of a cake person you really are. Do you love... [various styles of cake].

Could you finish that paragraph without wanting to shout, "I get it already"? I couldn't. The second, third, and fourth sentence all convey exactly the same information. Sol Stein, in his book Stein on Writing, says that in prose, 1 + 1 = 1/2. He means that, in prose, saying something twice is half as effective as saying it once, and I agree.

If I'd edited Cookwise, I'd have numbered each of those sentences and asked the author to tell me the one she wanted to keep.

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