Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Bit of a Vent

I try not to get worked up by stuff that annoys me, but every once in a while something gets under my skin and festers a bit. Sort of like what happened a couple of weeks ago when I grabbed a piece of dead gooseberry bush and ended up with 5 or 6 microscopic thorns in my thumb. I had to sit there with a 40x jeweler's loupe and dig them out.

So I'm still stewing about something from yesterday and am going to vent a bit.

I worked on an Op/Ed piece that bugged me. A lot. To bolster the arguments that were being made in the article, the author included a discussion of the accidental death of a young woman that came about because of human error. He began by describing this as "The tragic death of [her name], a beautiful....."

Yes. Her death was tragic, it shouldn't have happened. No doubt about it. Her grieving father was furious, and he launched a crusade that had far reaching effects. A law was passed because of it. A major change was made in the way some things are done because of it.

But was her death any more tragic because, as the author put it, she was "beautiful"? What if she hadn't been beautiful? What if she had been homely? News flash: Her death would still have been as tragic.

I thought about deleting the word, but I didn't. Out of curiosity, I found her picture on the Internet, and the girl really was attractive. Copyeditors walk a fine line sometimes. We are supposed to fix errors in grammar and punctuation and that sort of thing, and not necessarily edit to our personal opinions.

And to borrow shamelessly from colleagues

on the Copyediting list group...
Grant me the serenity . . .
to recognize the prose I should not change,
the ability to improve the prose I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.
So, I let it stand as the author had it. I wasted about 20 minutes trying to insert a query to the author about whether her being "beautiful" was relevant, but I couldn't figure out a diplomatic way to say what I wanted to say. I came very close to venting in an e-mail that might have come back to bite me in the butt had I clicked the send button. Fortunately, I didn't. Ya'll get to hear it instead.

Thanks for listening. And now I feel much better.


MuseSwings said...

Love the venting picture you chose for your vent! The phrase you mentioned is so often used - almost a cliche. When I read "the death of this or that beautiful woman" now, I just associate the adjective with the beauty they (hopefully) brought to the lives of others. But now that you mention it, ....grrr

Paula said...

Humm interesting entry. They wouldn't use the word ugly if the other way around. Beauty is just in the eyes of the beholder anyway.

Cathy said...

Hello LL
I get cross when they state the age of the person - and then put that person into a box. Old man of 65 or elderly 70 year old - you should hear my dh rant about those - or middle aged 40 year old. What difference does the age of the person make