Trials of an editor

Trials of an editor

I am a pretty tough editor. People who have written letters to the Standard are sometimes surprised when I shoot them back (the letters, not the people) asking for factual corrections and better writing. I’ve been known to rewrite a letter from the ground up (when I have time), only to have the writer say to me, “I don’t see what you changed.”
That means I did a good job – but I wish it had not been necessary in the first place.

It’s important to me that the paper not pass on untruths and misconceptions; it’s important to me that letters be clear expressions of clear thoughts. That’s why I was a little flummoxed this week when I got a letter from a 10th-grader (he called it an opinion piece).

I don’t want to embarrass him, so I’ll keep this general.

The feelings in the piece were strong, and that’s all to the good. But it wasn’t right for our readers (for various reasons); it wasn’t thought through; and what thought there was in it was poorly expressed. There was a word misused – and clearly misunderstood – in almost every sentence.

Unfortunately, the young writer called to ask what was happening with his piece. I told him it was not for us, but that did not satisfy him. His MOTHER then called. Oy. Well, we all love our children, and Jewish mothers more than most – or so it’s said.

At any rate, I sat down and sent him an e-mail critiquing the piece, virtually line by line. I hope it did not distress him. But I am greatly distressed to have had to do that. What is being taught in this nation’s high schools?