What To Tell Editors: Just Say “NO”

I’ve spent time of late considering the relationship of how to balance my verbal presentations with the almost Nazi-like hacking by of the grammar checking software tools at my disposal. My ability say what I want to say would be compromised if I gave in to all these criticisms. Usually I can see that these “suggestions” improve my sentences, but sometimes these “improvements” will slash my writing so that the idea is completely lost, or all color is bleached out of the page.

I don’t consider myself a good writer. I don’t care if the literary world ignores me. It’s not their approval I seek. My goal is simple. If the idea I’m trying to express is understood, then it is a successful offering.

I’ve come to a truce with my editing software tools. All suggestions are welcome, but I reserve to right to say “NO”. I sometimes get lazy with my writing and I need to reevaluate my sentences and paragraphs. I sometimes author what are called “Sticky Sentences”. These are sentences with so-called extra words that distract the reader. More than half the time the software is right and I can reword the sentence to be more economical and clear. A significant percentage of the time I feel the idea is presented as clearly as I care to make it, so I’ve learned to say “NO”.

Another criticism I’ve been called out on is the use of the “passive voice”. Wikipedia uses the example of “Our troops defeated the enemy” and “Brutus stabbed Caesar” as statements in the active voice, where “The enemy was defeated by our troops” and “Caesar was stabbed by Brutus” are statements in the passive voice. In these examples I agree that the active form is better than the passive form. I have found cases in my writing where I prefer the passive voice. I let the software tools “suggest” a revision, but if I feel it no longer expresses the idea to my satisfaction, I say “NO”.

The overuse of adverbs comes up often when my presentations are sliced and diced. More often than not I’m inclined to agree with these reductions. There are many times when the removal of adverbs improves the presentation of my ideas. I cannot agree that all adverbs are bad. Some sentences are just dull without them. I usually remove these words on the advice of these editing tools, but sometime I must say “NO”.

The written word is a valuable thing. I am not its master. The Pulitzer folks are not likely to beat down my door. I do like ideas, and I will continue my attempts to express my thoughts.

I thank you for your patient indulgence.