Tag Archives: editing

An editor’s life in queries

QUERY 1 GYM INSTRUCTOR: In gym class, we girls had to take a test where we would grab a mounted bar with both hands and hold ourselves with our chins over the bar. I had the longest hold time, but the tall girl with the second-longest time got mad and demanded a re-test, and I beat her again. Later, she asked yet again for a re-test and beat my time. Then, at lunch, she took my comb and threw it in one of the bathroom toilets. This seems unfair and points to the inherent cruelty of children. Please confirm.

QUERY 2 CAFETERIA MONITOR: In the lunch line, the cute boy who was really good in math punched me in the stomach. I tried not to cry but you said that he did it because he liked me. Please provide further support for this argument.

QUERY 3 VACANT MOTHER: Notwithstanding your extensive body enhancements and MILF-like status among the boys in my high school, you’re my mother and I am forced to tolerate you at the least. Consider developing your character to include qualities like warmth, generosity, and intellectual stamina.

QUERY 4 JAMES HARSTAD: Your seduction of me was obviously convincing given my relocation from Boise to Botswana, but it turns out that you’re nothing but an alcoholic with a personality disorder. This episode has made me confused about boundaries and unable to trust. Remove event from narrative?

QUERY 5 ACQUISITIONS DEPARTMENT: I embraced the incestuous nature of this industry as a form of job security. But since when does “promote from within” mean “leave to languish in the admin position from hell”? Please resolve inconsistency.

QUERY 6 WAYWARD BROTHER: After I posted bail and gave you a ride to the pile of detritus you call a home, you snidely indicated that I had always been the successful one. This despite your having been the coolest kid in school from the fifth grade through senior year. You were the genius but here I am explaining what “paying rent” means. Please provide further details regarding this contradiction.

QUERY 7 THE FATES: Grocery shopping regularly at four stores, the runaround at Best Buy, the carpenter bee damage to the eaves, the infinite sicknesses of children, the never-ending birthday party events, decisions about organic skin creams and bridesmaid dresses, boring friends, trips to the cabin in Maine, the recurrent retching of cats, the hemming and hawing about asking for a raise, Weight Watchers point-gathering minutia . . . these observations of and reactions to the quotidian are generally insightful, but there are so many that the narrative gets bogged down in unnecessary detail. Simplify or consider including several sex scenes.

QUERY 8 DR. WILLIAM DYER: Your references to impressive-sounding psychiatric terms rely on a perennial misunderstanding of “negativity” and “introvert” in vernacular use. Let’s discuss offline.

QUERY 9 THE FATES: I left Boise again, this time to live with my Spanish lover in Barcelona, since he was unwilling to relocate. In Barcelona, I was neglected and spiraled into a depression due to loneliness. I moved back home, only to find out a year later that he fell in love with a Greek woman and moved to Athens. The irony doesn’t escape me, and irony can be an effective literary device, but in this context, the event stretches credulity and makes the protagonist seem like a dunderhead. I suggest reworking this entire section.

QUERY 10 FRIENDS: It’s not the Facebook likes or Tweets or shared videos per se, which could be viewed as a form of interaction; it’s that sending and getting so many of them, paradoxically, gestures toward the actual level of your platonic commitment. We might need further reflection on the meaning of “friends” to justify inclusion.

QUERY 11 DR. SANDRA COLLINS: A sinus infection would not seem to present too many challenges to the medical community, but after three prescriptions, seven allergic reactions, five new symptoms, two new drugs, four specialists, and at least one misdiagnosis, we are left to wonder about the merits of this passage. Could we develop further the implied connection between doctors and wellness?

QUERY 12 DARKENED MIND: I accept you, I really do, but we all need a break sometimes. I find your constant rehashing of the past to be not only annoying but also indicative of an unstable mentality. And all this blaming keeps the storyline heavy and saturated. Then there’s all the measuring up you feel compelled to engage in. I would lighten these reader-unfriendly passages with a few harmless how-women-are-different-from-men anecdotes and/or cute pet stories.

QUERY 13 ASSHOLE STRANGER: All this about Alzheimer’s and belligerence does not ring true to me. Maybe you’re belligerent! Who are you, anyway? Get out of my room.


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Markup!, a new reality game show

If you like Masterpiece, you’ll love Markup!, a reality game show for the editor in all of us.

In the first of three rounds, four contestants must electronically edit a passage from a marketing professional and make it comprehensible, compelling, and grammatically correct in two minutes. Players will be surrounded by ringing phones, phone conferences set on speaker phone, inane office chatter, and flickering lights. Results are scored by three judges, who will evaluate the markup and provide scores in three categories: Diplomacy, Elegance, and Thoroughness. The loser is dismissed from the show.

In Round Two, the players must electronically edit a passage from a literary theory grad student while suffering a head cold (no symptom relief allowed) and three straight nights of sleep deprivation. The loser is dismissed from the show.

In Round Three, the final two contestants must, in addition to experiencing incessant chatter, flickering lights, a head cold, and sleep deprivation, sit in a windowless, A/C-less building on a 106-degree day. They must perform a hard-copy markup on a twenty-five-page report (with 17 charts) written by an engineer whose third language is English.

The winner is awarded the grand prize, which is the knowledge that he or she has made a positive contribution to the written word.

Drew Carey is reported to be considering a move from The Price Is Right to host the show.

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