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Writers Got Ants in Their Shakers
Writers who use the shakers give me the shakes.
I’m reading a submitted manuscript to see whether there’s something worthy of publishing, when suddenly I get the urge to brush all those little black ants off each page.
Somebody has filled a salt shaker with commas and apostrophes and sprinkled them liberally throughout the piece…seemingly at random. The paragraphs are filled to the brim with improper tense and punctuation usage of their’s & theres’ and it’s and its’ and “the best city’s in the world…mens’ room…”I don’t do window’s”…package of Oreo’s…and on and on and on and on.
We are having an ant infestation in the kitchen at home, and it’s fun to watch the little critters energetically going about their infesting. And, yes, they do look like apostrophes and commas out of control.
Liz is an editor, too, and she finds the same plague in many documents. She passed the shaker analogy along to me, by the way.
I find it difficult to teach the commanists and the apostrophiles how to make their work grammatical and readable with just a few simple rules. Folks who have come far enough in life to write manuscripts often feel they know all the rules and do not require instruction. Or they just don’t get it. Or they are used to depending on the editors to clean up their mess.
Guess that has become a major codicil in the imaginary manual of editing these days—just correct the manuscript for the writer and get on with judging whether the piece has merit beyond the ants.
And don’t get me started on social media usage. The electronic ants are beyond recall. Even the brightest, most educated and otherwise wise “friends” get it wrong every few minutes, day after day.
Am I tilting at windmills? Should I just take E.O. Wilson’s advice and, instead of exterminating the ants in the kitchen, learn to observe and appreciate them?
Nah. Shakers got to shake, editors got to edit
© Jim Reed 2015 A.D.