Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…confused by certain edits

I’m quite pedantic about some of my writing and although there are times when I’ll slip up – through laziness, stupidity or other – I’m generally quite switched on. I have many pets hates, one of my main bugbears is with the sloppy or inappropriate use of words with very specific meanings. While there are some people I trust with my words, there are many I’d rather wouldn’t try to change what I’ve written.

This story starts after seeing one of my website cohorts had his words plastered over a festival poster. Since then I’ve been hoping to see my work helping to show off an act’s worth. Maybe, you know, later get that poster and quote then frame it to put on my bedroom wall. Be all narcissistic like.

Last night I thought that moment had come. On my way to see the brilliant Paul Zerdin, I noticed that the Barry and Stuart poster in the Underbelly had a cut out quote with the name website of the website I’m writing for emblazoned upon it. Knowing that I went to see them and that I had reviewed their show, I was giddy at the prospect of my work being recognised – not only by a festival show, but by a fairly well known act. As I studied the quote more closely I got a little confused. I didn’t remember writing the words in front of me. More importantly, those words didn’t look like something I’d write.

“simply breathtaking…guaranteed to entertain”

After three shows and a late night, I completely forgot about it but then outside the Gilded Balloon today I saw two more of these posters and it struck me as even more odd that I would write something like that. I came up with three likely scenarios:

  1. I was tired when I wrote (or re-wrote, as this was a review my editor had sent back to me for a second crack) this review and I had succumbed to lazy glorification
  2. I had written something similar that had been selectively quoted by the promoters*
  3. My piece had been edited slightly and those weren’t actually my words

When I got back tonight, I realised the third was the case. I checked the document on my computer and neither phrase was there. I went to the published article and found them both.

The first I didn’t mind – I had used the word “breathtaking”, so it wasn’t much of  a jump by my editor to add “simply” to it. What irked my slightly was the way he had changed the sentence beforehand from “Throughout the show I often wondered how seriously the pair take their magic – so when they did come up with a mystifying trick it became even more breathtaking” (I’ve changed the tenses just now – something I would expect to happen in the editorial process) to “The comedy form the duo made me wonder how seriously the pair take their magic, – I had needn’t of worried as mystifying tricks were soon on show and simply breathtaking”. It wasn’t the comedy ‘form’ the duo that made me think that, there’s no need for a comma and a dash, and “had needn’t of” is just terrible.

The second half of the quote – “guaranteed to entertain” – annoyed me even more because guaranteed is so out of place and realising that entertainment is so subjective I know that enjoyment can’t be guaranteed, especially when there are a few touches to this show that could easily isolate some people. (Another thing that bugs me is that from one instance of the word ‘squeamish’ in my original draft, the published article now has this word three times in quite quick succession. Shift + F7, please.)

I don’t know if my editor will find this article but I hope I get a chance to speak to him before he does. He’s a lovely bloke and while I’m grateful for the chance he’s given me to write at the festival, and for all the work he’s put in organising shows for me, but he’ll readily admit that he’s not a writer. I’ve already said that I had sent in my second draft of my review, so it’s possible it wasn’t quite up to scratch and that he simply didn’t want to keep sending it back to me, but to have him edit my work so extensively is a little disappointing.

He has previously encouraged us all to write soundbites that could easily be lifted for posters (if I don’t have a problem with keyword density…) and he’s showed exactly what he means by that, although in an overexaggerated way that I don’t fully agree with. What makes it so disappointing is that now my moment of glory has been tainted by the Barry and Stuart posters across town.

*One of my favourite instances of creative quote collecting comes from a story I read in a Private Eye a while ago – I forget the smaller details, but the main message is here. A version of a famous play was bombing in London and after yet another poor review, a writer was surprised to see the single word “wonderful” with his publication’s name attached to it. The full quote from the review went something like “It’s an abomination what this cast is doing to this once wonderful play”.

Filed under: writing

3 Responses

  1. Lynsey May says:

    I’m going to edit your face! Or your beard. Which would upset you most? Whichever it is that’s the one I plan to change beyond recognition.

    • Oliver says:

      I finally write something after all your prompting and all I get is insults and threats. This is not what I signed up for.

      (If you tell me how you’re going to edit my beard I’ll happily let you have a go if it’s something I think will look good.)

  2. Jemma says:

    Hi Oliver. I’m bored and reading your archives. This is hilarious, you’re so precious 🙂 x

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