Utne Blogs > Literature

When Editors Attack

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Great Writing, editing, Dan Brown, Sarah Palin, The Globe and Mail, Vanity Fair,

Edit AttackEditors have a hard time resigning themselves to the creeping destruction of the English language. A few have decided to fight back against the hackneyed popular fiction and nearly incomprehensible public speaking that infects common discourse. Though some 80 million copies of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code have been sold, Brian Joseph Davis of The Globe and Mail writes that the author’s writing style “is so toxically inept that Vladimir Putin could use it to poison dissidents.”

Rather than simply criticizing idly, Davis took a crack at editing the first two chapters of Brown’s novel. He released PDFs of his efforts, complete with deletions, additions, and comments in the text. Davis tried desperately to excise a few uses of the word “slowly,” which appears 7 times in the first 10 pages.

A similar effort was undertaken by the editors at Vanity Fair, after Sarah Palin made a mockery of her native language during her resignation speech. The literary editor, copy editor, and research editor took their pens to a transcript of the speech in a valiant effort to make the semi-coherent speech comprehensible. The result is cluttered with ink, but a vast improvement over the original.

Both efforts came too late to salvage the original source material. Perhaps next time, Brown will think twice before using the word “slowly,” and Palin will try and check her facts. (Not likely, though.)

Sources: The Globe and MailVanity Fair 

Image by AlaskaTeacher, licensed under Creative Commons.