Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Kingdom for an Editor (or, a Red Pen's Letter to Rachel Z.)

This is what Rachel Z.'s red pen should have written to her BEFORE her article went out. Regrettably, it's too late for that.

Dear Rachel,

First of all, congratulations. Many aspiring writers out there plod along for years, biding their time until they land that coveted writing job, but you got one. You're a writer for, and furthermore, your upcoming article will be referenced and linked on the homepage, doubtless gaining a broader readership. Really, bravo.

However, I fear we simply can't let your article go out in its current condition. Though the ideas in your article are sound enough and are backed up by research from, well, at least one book, there are a few errors we have to correct before we go forward. Therefore, I've taken the liberty of marking up the draft below. Please consider my comments carefully; after all, as an experienced red pen, I know about these things.

Seven Deadly Workplace Sins
By Rachel Z.

You know the type. The guy who takes full credit for a job well done -- albeit any help he received along the way. - We're starting right off with a bang here. First, you've used a conjunction, "albeit," where you need a preposition. Secondly, you've used a word that means the opposite of what you think it means. The word you want here is "despite."

The "one-for-the-taking-and-focused-on-quick-ways-to-get-ahead" cougar lady. Unclear. What does "one-for-the-taking" mean? Delete. Once the baffling "one-for-the-taking" is removed, the quotes around "focused-on-quick-ways-to-get-ahead" will make even less sense, so delete them. Third, it's not clear to me how this woman's identity as a "cougar" - that is, in the vernacular, a woman who hopes to attract younger men - is relevant to her role in the business world. Start over.

The hot-headed jerk that jumps down your throat at any sign of question or disagreement concerning his latest project. This is OK. "At any sign of question . . .concerning his latest project" doesn't read well, but perhaps it's best to let sleeping dogs lie.

While most of us share a common goal of achievement and success in the workplace, we also know that there are ways to accomplish this ambition -- and ways to fall short. "Success in the workplace doesn't happen 'on a wing and a prayer,' but rather by knowing what specific job promotion pitfalls to avoid in working toward that heavenly pot of career gold," says John McKee, business coach and author of "21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot." Very good job remaining gramatically correct and articulate all throughout the quote from someone else's book. However, since the source is, in fact, a book (and not an article or poem), you must remove the quotes and either italicize or underline the title.

To avoid becoming the once-respectable, often-humble guy who got a promotion but lost his wits (and gained an ego), follow McKee's advice on the seven deadly career sins to assure career advancement and move you on the path to paycheck promise land:
This sentence is clunky in several ways, but let's focus on "move you on the path to paycheck promise land." First, the ending phrase should be "paycheck promised land," but you're not alone in that mistake, so don't feel too bad; many a Christian youth camp is named PromiseLand. Secondly, nice alliteration, but "paycheck promised land" needs an article. "The" will serve. Thirdly, you've got to adjust the wording. "Move you forward on the path to the paycheck promised land" would be fine. "Put you on the path to the paycheck promised land" would be even better, as it's more alliterative. But "move you on the path" really isn't a thing.

We're only 6 sentences into your article, but you get the idea. Remember, you're a professional writer - so act like one and do a second draft. I'm your friend, and I'm always ready to help. And you know, since you work for a corporation that publishes a lot of content, my guess is there's an editor somewhere in your office who could help too!

Best of Luck,

Your Red Pen


Blogger brd said...

Tee Hee. Thank you red pen for making those suggestions. Hm.m.m.m but what about the topic itself? Perhaps a bit hackneyed and virtually useless to a serious professional?

3:12 AM  
Blogger Anne G G said...

Oh yes, I agree with that. As it goes on, the article does really use the "Seven Deadly Sins" as the basis for the "Seven Deadly Workplace Sins," so nothing particularly interesting - pride, envy, greed, etc. Basically, take the list of things you already knew you shouldn't do, and now don't do them at work!

Gluttony could have been interesting, I think - don't steal your coworkers' lunches perhaps? - but the author makes it into a metaphor for being a workaholic, which isn't interesting at all.

I don't reallly expect much from my articles, but I think someone was really asleep at the switch on this one.

5:43 AM  
Blogger Alicia said...

Also, "often-humble" shouldn't have a hyphen, since often functions as an adverb. According to the AP style book, never hyphenate adverbs -- even when they are included in a multiple-word augmentation of a noun. (Though my hyphen there is correct -- see?)

Also, I'm betting the editors were also asleep on the job.

It's possible that Rachel parlayed her previous job as a writer of "D" level essays (Free! Online! You don't have to read Mayor of Casterbridge!) into her current job at Careerbuilder. THAT would be something I'd like to read an article on.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Vallerie said...

Thanks for writing this.

6:04 PM  
Blogger BK said...

Oh how I miss the days in the writing center! Could you please write a letter to businesses in JC that inappropriately uses quotes for their signs, advertisements and menus? (Excluding "Real Food" from Cootie Brown's - I rather like that one.)

3:19 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home