The Corner

Eats Shoots & Leaves

Ramesh: Menand’s review pointed up the great differences in editing

philosophy on the two sides of the Atlantic. The British are, to be frank

about it, very sloppy. If you submit a piece that’s 100 words too long, the

newspaper/magazine will not infrequently just lop off the last paragraph,

with no regard at all to the sense of the piece — this has actually

happened to me. Everyone over there tells you they have a style book (even

tabloid newspapers — in fact I have an old (1981) copy of the Daily Mirror

style book, written by Keith Waterhouse, and it’s rather good) but if you

focus on one particular periodical, punctuation, grammar and usage are all

over the place.

In the USA, by contrast, editors are meticulous to a degree than seems

maddening to immigrant Brits. You can have long, earnest phone

conversations with US editors over the placement of a semicolon. The only

phone conversations I can recall having with UK editors were ones that

started with me saying: “Where’s my #$%@*%#ing check?” It’s weird and

unsettling at first, but one soon sees the point & is grateful for it.

You know the old joke about Heaven having English policemen, Italian

architects, Chinese cooks, etc., while Hell has English cooks, French cops,

etc. Well, I know where the editors go…


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