Having spent the first 27 years of my working life in the newspaper business as a writer,
copy editor, editor and designer, I learned early in the game that everyone needs an editor.
Unfortunately, sometimes an editor (and/or proofreader) isn’t available. Other times,
we don’t have time or simply don’t care if another person gives our written “works of art” a
thorough going-over with a red pen – a paper “drowning in a sea of ink,” as my first boss said.
A good editor is a writer’s best friend; a skilled editor can turn the mundane into
magnificent, so-so into sensational, tiresome into terrific.
Conversely, the lack of one can result in articles, essays, columns and the like filled with
contradictions, misinformation, disinformation, incongruities and mechanical mistakes that
leave the author and the reader asking, HUH?
And even if you are a talented editor, always get a “second set of (discerning) eyes” to
critique your work. While self-editing can greatly improve the finished product, those who don’t
have a backup reader will discover too late that what they thought wrote isn’t exactly what
they thought they wrote. See what I mean?
Here are some examples of some hilarious (embarrassing) sentences as they were typed
by medical secretaries into the National Health Service registers (NHS), in the United Kingdom.
Yeah, they cry out for an editor:
1. The patient had no previous history of suicide.
2. The patient’s medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40-pound
weight game in the past three days.
3. On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.
4. She is numb from her toes down.
5. The patient was alert and unresponsive.
6. The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.
7. Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.
8. Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.
9. Discharge status: Alive, but without my permission.
10. She states that she had been constipated for most of her life until she got a divorce.
Seriously, folks, you can’t make this stuff up. Well, you could. But I didn’t. Thanks to Dr.
Abir Banerjee for sharing.
Punctuation is Powerful
I devoted a recent column to the misuse and omission of commas and other
punctuation, and how usage can drastically change the meaning of a sentence.
If those examples weren’t enough to convince you, consider the sentence below. It is
punctuated two different ways (both correct), but the way it is punctuated creates two very
different but powerful sentences.
Sentence 1: “A woman, without her man, is nothing.” (I hope every woman is offended by this –
you should be.)
Now, let’s replace the first comma with a colon and move the second comma and see
Sentence 2: “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”
Point made? End of story.
A Very Punny Story
If you appreciate puns and word play, then I hope you find the following to be laugh-
out-loud funny, or leaves you groaning in dismay.
“When pressed, the tailor, a material witness in the suit, came apart at the seams. His
altered testimony completely unraveled. The tale he had woven had become a complete