To Tinker or Not to Tinker

I picked up a new book from the library* yesterday: Between You & Me by New Yorker copy editor Mary Norris. I’m already smitten, so I thought I’d share a passage I particularly appreciated.

But good writers have a reason for doing things the way they do them, and if you tinker with their work, taking it upon yourself to neutralize a slightly eccentric usage or zap a comma or sharpen the emphasis of something that the writer was deliberately keeping obscure, you are not helping. In my experience, the really great writers enjoy the editorial process. They weigh queries, and they accept or reject them for good reasons. They are not defensive. The whole point of having things read before publication is to test their effect on a general reader. You want to make sure when you go out there that the tag on the back of your collar isn’t poking up—unless, of course, you are deliberately wearing your clothes inside out.**

*Oh, how I adore the Hennepin County library system!

**Incidentally, just last week was Fashion Revolution Day when some people did, indeed, intentionally wear their clothes inside out.