'I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be a man.' -Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Don't Over Edit Your Writings

by Ethan Glover, Fri, Jul 24, 2015

I meant to write a response to some of the criticisms I've been hearing against Google. To be precise, I've been doing it for a long time. Not because I'm a "fanboy," but because the criticisms are almost always unfair.

But I don't want to get into that subject just now. The point of this is to express the dangers of over-editing.

After writing up my article on Google criticisms, I started my standard editing process. I kept editing though. Obsessively.

When I finished the article I realized I had completely cannibalized the entire piece. All adverbs were gone and the article had no energy left.

I had shortened and simplified sentences to the point where all transitions disappeared.

I was following all the basic editing rules, but they didn't work.

I'm all for editing as much as possible and simplifying writing. But if you take it to such an extent that your voice disappears entirely, it's too much.

When I read through my edited piece, it sounded about as good as "See Spot Run."

Now, it's trash. I poured my mood and thinking process onto the page while writing it. There's nothing left of that on the page.

It's like when you tell a really good joke and get everyone laughing. Then someone walks into the room and asks, "What's everyone laughing about? Say it again."

You can't. If you did, the joke wouldn't work. The mood and energy just isn't there anymore.

So I apologize for my lack of response on recent Google conversations. Maybe you can catch me on the subject next time.

The lesson here today is to be careful with your editing. Follow all the basic rules. But don't destroy your own voice. Your personal signature in your style of writing should always take precedent. Even over grammar rules.