Jewish World Review June 21, 2011 / 19 Sivan, 5771
We Do This Every Day
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | stet -- verb (Latin, let it stand): to annotate with the word stet to nullify a previous order to delete or omit (a word or passage in a manuscript or printer's proof). First known use: 1875
-- From Webster's
Some things an editor does every weekday, and often enough on nights and weekends. It goes with the territory, which is that of a daily newspaper.
This ain't no quarterly.
One of those things is reading page proofs. Repeatedly. Because it's remarkable what will escape an editor's attention the first time. Or even the second. Or more. You ought to see some of the looks I used to get from harried linotype operators, who now have been succeeded by harried paginators. ("What, you again?") Or maybe you oughtn't. They're not pretty.
But if Gentle Reader is going to spend his time reading the paper, the least we can do is make sure our copy is clean. We owe you that much respect. Every. Single. Day.
There are still lots of good writers in this business and obsession. It's the good editor, the proofreader who cares, the paginator who can interpret an editor's scrawled hieroglyphics, and correct his mistakes without introducing his own, who's the rarity.
But good editing goes largely unrecognized, which is as it should be.
Editing should be inconspicuous, like any expert repair job. It is bad editing that strikes the eye -- like a right hook.
The world is full of the verbally incontinent Thomas Wolfes who can turn out an indigestible mass of words and emotions -- even fuller of them in this era of
Inspiration may last for a moment; it's sustaining interest, day after day, year after year, that's the trick. The way
It's the constancy of purpose that makes great music, baseball, foreign policy and newspapers. It's not the exceptional moments, prized as they are, that determine excellence but the quality of the performance over a whole season. As with symphony orchestras.
Maybe that's why, to those of us of an obsessive temperament, the greatest record in major league baseball isn't the number of home runs hit or winning games pitched, but the one unmatched and maybe unmatchable feat in those friendly confines:
The Yankee Clipper was the most beautiful of ballplayers, whether loping across center field or taking that unmistakable wide stance at the plate that was his hallmark. But his greatest achievement was the regularity of his effort, his steady focus day in, day out. In 56 consecutive games.
The Streak began without being announced. No one could know this was the beginning of something great, and it ended as undramatically as it began -- a grounder to shortstop. (
The next day, DiMaggio would pick up his bat and proceed to hit in 16 more straight games. He was a ballplayer, not a wonder worker. He did this every day.
Much like Frost, Wilbur is the poet of the natural, the apolitical, of small dappled things. Perfection is a pagan notion of beauty. It is the celebration of the imperfect, the everyday, at which
And so sanctifies it. Which is what gives us marred, imperfect souls saving hope. The poet can give even ordinary proofreader's shorthand an air of the holy, as in his little poem, "The Proof" --
Shall I love God for causing me to be?
I was mere utterance; shall these words love me?
Yet when I caused his work to jar and stammer,
And one free subject loosened all his grammar,
I love him that he did not in a rage
Once and forever rule me off the page,
But, thinking I might come to please him yet,
Crossed out delete and wrote his patient stet.
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