Molly Kendrick writes Contemptible Impudence, a blog about freelance writing. she hosts yeah no yeah podcast with co-host katie brandt.

What it's like when a friend asks you to edit something

When you make your living writing, people tend to think that you're spending most of your time waiting for inspiration to strike. In reality, you immediately open your laptop upon waking, start typing, and don't stop until you're a delirious, dried-out husk, mostly for websites that want you to write "engaging content" at warp speeds. 

Because a lot of what I write is very boring, I enter a dissociative fugue and emerge having written 17,000 words. It's generally not perfect. I use a Chrome extension called Grammarly to catch my most basic errors, and it has probably saved my career. It occurs to me that there's almost certainly a typo in this very blog, and you're probably the smug son of a gun who's going to find it. "Ha! A mistake! The thing that's the very thing that's the subject of this thing!' you'll say, jumping into the air and clicking your heels. God, you're strange. When that happens, please know that I put it there for you because I love you and want to make you happy. (Full disclosure: I had my mom proofread this.)

Another common misconception I've come up against: if you're a writer, you're also an editor. This is the opposite of that which is true — see?? I'm not a particularly strong editor. There are writers, and then there are editors. I like to write, but I like to write like I like to drink — a lot, very fast, followed by a big bowl of spaghetti. 9-to-5ers also seem to have the impression that you're writing because you love to write, and that fiery passion burns bright whether or not you're getting paid. 

I've had a lot of friends (and clients who aren't paying me enough) ask me to edit emails, resumes, and a slew of troubling self-published books. After years as a student of the human condition, I've concluded that when people say they "want you to edit," they mean "confirm my strong belief that this is perfect." To quote a client who didn't care for my feedback, "Just edit it. Don't read it too much." If I have any writing tip, it's this: Nothing is ever done. When you think you're done, throw your laptop into the East River and start anew. If you become a professional, you can write this off on your taxes. What I lack in proofreading I make up for with truly spiffy accounting. (Full disclosure: My mom told me to change two sentences when she finished proofreading. I handled it beautifully and only belched into the phone once.)

Now that I've given you all the tools you need to become a writer, become my blood brother and share in my pain — the following is a transcript of nearly every exchange I've had with someone who just wants me to look an email over quickly just basic grammar and spelling don't tell me anything else i'm covering my ears la la la la la

This should say "among" instead of "between" 

I feel that grammar is a tool of colonial oppressors. Now I know how the Inca felt when the Spanish conquistadors burned every last scrap of their written language. 

I'm going to break this section up into two sentences.

Excuse me, but it's supposed to be hard to read. I'm sending this to my number-one nemesis and I'm using this letter as a distraction — while they take time to read it, I'm going to sneak into her house and seduce her husband. 

Ok, I support you as a friend, but this next part is a run-on sentence. 

I feel like you're not "getting" it. I want this sentence to be long. Again, I don't like my reader, and it would be funny if her legs fell to sleep and she fell over once she finally tried to stand up. And I hate to shine a light on your ignorance yet again, but I need my prose to evoke Molly Bloom's soliloquy in Ulysses, the one that comes up first when you Google "longest sentence in English language" Please read a book sometime. Are you done yet?

Can you take a step back? I can feel your hot breath on my neck. 

I'm worried that if I go anywhere you'll read it wrong. 

You're using "enormity" wrong. That word is supposed to refer to profound evil, not size. 

Language changes over time. I'm eager to hurry the process along. Please don't chumblify yourself by being on the wrong side of history.

 "Chumblify" isn't a word. And yet, sounds vaguely British. 

It isn't a word...yet. Ever heard of Shakespeare? Where would we be without his contributions to the English language, including gems like frugal, lackluster, and zany. I'm just like him. Zany and British.

This needs a hyphen.

A hyphen is a baby em dash and it makes me feel insecure for having already taken on so much responsibility at such a young age. All I ever wanted was to make mummy proud! 

This semicolon is awkward — use an em dash instead

Semicolons are beacons of taste, refinement, and post-secondary education; I went to university at Oxford.  

You went to community college in Germantown, Maryland. 

Whatever you say, old thing. 

I'm going to make a small change.

I dare say I fancy smashing every bone in your hand with this small hammer.  

You know what? I think you should just send it. Believe in yourself. 

Are you sure? 

Terribly sure. Just one thing...

Oh?

How are you going to end it? 

Sincerely,

Ice cold.

Yours truly, 

Prude! 

xoxo,

Slut!

Love,

Weirdo.

Warm regards,

Back off!

Best, 

Worst! 

Cheers,

Again with the British thing!

Thanks,

Your welcome

...WHAT

U got me lol

lol bye

Perfect

 

 

 

 

 

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