Who died and made you editor?

United States
July 18, 2009 2:46pm CST
Yesterday, I had a piece that I had written rejected because...well, I am not exactly sure. The form rejection said that it did not exhibit correct grammar, sentence structure, spelling and punctuation, which is like saying that something is not orange; it really does not narrow the actual problem down. Looking over the piece, I could only find one sentence that was awkward. The rest of it would have gotten by the harshest of my university professors. So I am left with wondering why it was rejected. Could it be that they did not want to pay for the piece and that was a handy reason. Or could it be that online editors are not necessarily qualified to do the job in the first place. Yes, it was an online rejection. I miss the days of the print market. At least there, you would occassionally get your article back with a sentence circled, so you would know where to look. But online rejections are even more cryptic than the form letters of the print market. Looking over the piece, I noticed that I was writing at a college level; I was using complex and compound sentences, and some colons and semicolons. And that is why I think the piece got bounced. Call me paranoid. But there is one thing I have noticed from college class peer reviews and writing circles: if a person does not know why something is being done grammar-wise, they will say that it is wrong. And a lot of online editors are not editors by trade. They are business people, computer people, and other people who did not have to suffer beyond eighth grade English (as in they never needed to prove that they knew what a semicolon was good for). These are the type of people that would prefer you to commit the crime of creating a comma splice, rather than use a semicolon. Maybe I am wrong in this case. But the nagging voice in the back of my head tells me that I just encountered another editor who should actually be an editor.
4 people like this
7 responses
• United States
18 Jul 09
Compound sentences and semi-colons! Are you mad, sir? Get with the program. All writing has to be at an eighth grade level or lower. Words over two syllables are strictly verboten. As for "editors," you're probably right -- when you're not sure, it must be wrong. But it's not just online editors who are unqualified for their jobs. Pick up almost any magazine or book and you'll find plenty of typos and vocabulary goofs. It's commonly known (at least I think it's common knowledge) that 1. publishing houses have cut back on editors as uneconomic and 2. they probably couldn't find qualified people even if they tried. But rejoice. It's an increasingly visual world and that makes most people happy. That pictures don't have the ability to convey subtle or complex ideas is irrelevant; the majority of our so-called educated readers will never miss them. Sorry about the semi-colon -- just a bit of show-offery.
2 people like this
• United States
20 Jul 09
Ahh, that is my problem; I expect readers to be able to cope with semi-colons and other signs of having actually passed college level English.
@thyst07 (2091)
• United States
18 Jul 09
That is really frustrating, and I know how you feel. I'm currently in college, and I've gotten less-than-perfect grades on papers because college professors marked my grammar or spelling incorrect when in fact it was correct. Now, it's certainly bad for an online editor to be incompetent with spelling and grammar, but I think it's even worse when college professors don't understand the rules of grammar usage. Sometimes I get the feeling that I'm being educated by idiots.
2 people like this
• United States
20 Jul 09
So far I have been lucky. Either I get a professor who does not seem to care about grammar, or I actually get one that understands it. Of course, all of my professors nail me on spelling. I am not the best typist, therefore I mistype a word or two in every assignment if I am not being careful. The handwritten tests, mid-terms and finals are fun too; my handwriting looks like a series of inkblobs.
• United States
20 Jul 09
i hate when places are vague in their rejections. you can't really correct it if you're unclear where the problem lies with them. that being said-my bro works for a newspaper(print),and i wonder sometimes if they have a proofreader anymore.i'm no english major by any means,but they have horrendous errors that make it to press.
• United States
22 Jul 09
I was amazed at some of the errors that made it to print at the college paper I was working for last semester. Including some of my own. Of course, I do understand that one; after awhile, I can not see my own errors unless I have a night away from the piece. And the poor editors had worst writers to cope with; I had enourgh working experience that I was responsible for my own editing for the most part. As for elsewhere, I must admit that I am not sure there is such a thing as a true editor anymore, or at least one that is actually concerned with grammar and spelling matters. Most editors nowdays seem to be more concerned with "Will this sell copies?" And have you looked at the grammar, spelling, and format errors being committed in the book market. I am not sure about other fields, but the esoteric books coming out nowdays are riddled with errors that should have been caught. Too many errors are making their way to print to claim that it was merely overlooked.
1 person likes this
• United States
25 Jul 09
my brother bought this book about a month back that was formatted horribly. it had the most stilted way of setting up pages i'd ever seen.huge paragraphs that run on.my english teacher used to yell at people for "running too long like that" as she put it. i would hope at least they were trying for a style,but i have the feeling that wasn't the case.
1 person likes this
@peavey (16991)
• United States
20 Jul 09
Writing online content is different from writing for print publications, not just in the editors they use (some of them use very good editors; some do not). College level content is boring to many and won't be read. I hesitate to plunge into a "properly written" piece that's too wordy or long or complicated. Many of those who publish online know this instinctively, but not consciously. You probably received what would be called a form letter, as online editors are usually very busy people. For some reason, people think that it's easier to write for online publications than print publications, so those sites are inundated with material, most of it badly written. I'm not saying that yours was, only that the editor probably didn't have time to point out anything and it's kind of hard to circle a few words with a keyboard!
1 person likes this
• United States
20 Jul 09
I would argue that people just think that it is easy to be a writer. It does not matter if it is online or in the print market. I did some time in the slush pile for a small zine in the print market; at least, 99% was unreadable. Finding any printable stories and articles is a small miracle. As for online writing, in many ways, I find it harder than writing for the print market. Of course, the print market is shrinking, and most writers are being forced to learn to write "twit" because the attention span of the human race has descended to 100 characters or less.
@peavey (16991)
• United States
20 Jul 09
I think it depends on your personal writing style as to which market is harder to write for. I've edited an online 'zine and found there is quite a bit of junk, but our goal was to help writers know how to write for online markets, so if the junk had a gem of an idea, we'd work with them. It was interesting, but sometimes exhausting work.
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Jul 09
I think they prob have some sort of computer system that generated whats wrong or not so I dont think its an actualy person so it's prob computer error or humor however you would like to look at it. I could be way off..I doubt the administration actually takes the time to read what everyone has posted.
1 person likes this
• United States
20 Jul 09
I suspect that it is like the print market slush pile. Someone opens it up and starts reading. When they hit the first mistake, or sentence that turns them off, they pull out the rejection letter.
• United States
19 Jul 09
Those of us who know how to write sentences that make sense are a minority, unfortunately. Maybe we should start a support group. I've had articles rejected because they're deemed not interesting enough, when they're probably just over the heads of most readers. That might be what happened to yours. Keep on writing; we need more well-written articles so the badly written ones don't take over.
1 person likes this
• United States
20 Jul 09
Most writers seem to be interested more in dumbing down their work than maintaining their professional pride. I got in a row with the editor of the college newspaper I started writing for last year about my writing style being too advanced. My comeback was that I was writing for a college newspaper, and I expected my readers to be able to cope with college level reading. I think one of the reasons that readers can not cope with such stuff is that writers keep dumbing stuff down. Semi-colons are the least I expect my readers to cope with.
• Philippines
19 Jul 09
Can it be that the piece you sent them won't "sell"? You know, some of these people nowadays look towards the money rather than the grammar. Maybe that is what they are pointing out and made up the "grammar" excuse so that rejecting your article could be "valid."
1 person likes this
• United States
20 Jul 09
In the days of the print market, the rejection forms had a checkbox for "Your submission does not meet our needs at this time." For the most part, I do not think that the online world has figured out how to say "We feel that your submission will not generate a high enourgh return to justify upfront payment." Hence, my wondering if it was not really the grammar that was the issue.