When I got out of school, I rented an apartment with a couple of roommates. Per state law, the landlord repainted the place just before we moved in. And they painted everything. Walls, ceilings, window frames, heater registers, doors… doorknobs. And where one of the windows was cracked open and a dead spider dangled by a single strand, they painted the web and the spider.
Yes, there was a thin coat of white paint on this tiny spider. It wasn’t sloppy, it took effort to paint the spider where it hung and not just brush it away.
They painted a dead, dangling spider. On purpose.
At the time I laughed it off, but have since recalled that image when thinking about project quality, especially when reviewing my own work—particularly editing (since that’s the bulk of what I’ve been doing lately).
It takes effort to correct a shitty sentence, but it takes a larger perspective to recognize when the sentence doesn’t belong there in the first place. Editing isn’t just about cleaning up grammar and commas. It’s also about viewing every sentence in the context of the paragraph and the ones before and after. Does it fit? Does it flow?
- If it repeats information the reader already knows
- If it interrupts the flow of a particular thought
- If it drags out a detail that’s not entirely relevant
…out it goes (or if the information matters, I’ll reduce or reorder it into neighboring sentences).
Someday I’ll be done editing, and hopefully I’ll have cleared out all the spiders, instead of just painting them. Stay tuned.