Editor at Work

I’m reading Bravura, the new biography of Lucia Chase, one of the founders of the American Ballet Theatre. The ABT has long been my favorite ballet company, and I’m having a wonderful time reading about its beginnings and ups and downs over the years. My sister Lois and I often saw Lucia Chase in the audience at performances, and I’m wishing now that I’d found the courage to go over and talk with her. (She died in 1986.)

The book is especially poignant because the author is Lucia’s younger son, Alex C. Ewing. His eyewitness descriptions of the many formidable people who shaped the ABT make this a truly remarkable book.

But I couldn’t turn off my internal editor while I was reading. Alas, problems crept into the book. Lucia’s early adulthood is given minimal coverage in the book. She did not marry until she was 29, but there is only a scant page describing those years. And the wedding is never mentioned. Suddenly you read that Tom Ewing and Lucia are living together in New York City, and then two children arrive. The date and place of the wedding are mentioned only in a photo caption (it was December 29, 1926, in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Waterbury, in case you’re wondering).

Another error: minuscule is misspelled not once but three times. (Here’s an easy way to remember the correct spelling: Think of the word “minus.”)

The book was done by the University Press of Florida, a fine publisher that (ahem!) brought out my own Pygmalion’s Wordplay in 1999. But any writer can make an error (or lots of them, as I do myself). That’s why there are editors.

If you’re trying to sharpen your writing skills (and who isn’t?), get into the habit of reading with an editor’s eye. You’ll be developing the editing software in your brain and, ultimately, you’ll become more skilled at revising your own work.

 

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