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Editorial Puzzles

I’ve done some freelance editing the past few months. Yesterday, one of my clients sent me a list of questions that have plagued her as she has prepared to submit an article to a journal. Every question was a good one, and many weren’t easy to answer. How would you respond to these?

  • Of, or to? Which preposition, of or to, is most appropriate in the following two sentences? 1) “A general malaise changed the public’s reception to the film.” 2) Roger Ebert’s reception to the movie was miniscule, if not nonexistent.”
  • Through, or in? In the sentence, “Men participate in public sphere through their actions as fathers,” is through more appropriate, or in?
  • What’s the best pronoun? “Not only did he negate the Nichomachean ethics of which Aristotle is the best spokesman, but he also drove a stake in the heart of Nietzsche.” Which or whom?
  • Which is the better sentence? 1) “The government plans to return to Mexico all Latinos/as up to the twelfth generation.” Or 2) “The government will return to Mexico twelve generations of Mexican descendents.”

(FYI, Sample sentences are paraphrased to the problem and as such, are entirely my work, not my client’s.)

 

Comments

from another freelance editor:
To.
Through.
Which, but I’d say for which.
These sentences say two different things, but I prefer 1).

Oops, now I think of in the first one.

Oops, now I think of in the first one.

With the first, I think your first instinct is right. Because “to” is a spatial preposition, it suggests a more active “reception”—the kind of reception a public and certainly critics might (or might not) give. Actually, I suggested revising “reception” to “receive” to get rid of the ambiguity, but if it were to stay the same, I went with “to.”

Through too.

I didn’t think of for which! Instead, I suggested “best spoken for by Aristotle.” My philosophy? When in doubt, get rid of it. :)

The first sentence was best and said what was meant. Instead of “latinos/as,” I should’ve left #1 as “Mexicans”: the different sentences came through an attempt to soften language.

in terms of the nicomachean ethics…

isn’t aristotle the supposed originator of them… that is, the book called nicomachean ethics where the search for the good life, balance and all that is developed (from which we get the term NE), supposing this is what she means by NE, is attributed to aristotle and purportedly written down by nicomachus, his son.

thus, doesn’t the sentennce itself seem strange?

that is, NE is only a “school” of ethics because it is best described by Aristotle’s NE…so, it seems strange to say that he is the best spokesman for an eponymous ethics. there’s a strange antonomasis going on.

but, i am no philosopher. i just like to misuse large words

why? not all latin@s are mexicans

Yes, Aristotle did invent the NE ethics; and re: Mexicans, you are correct too—of whom I do not know the “proper” could be considered so, but is not really, racial slur.

The original sentences were neither about Aristotle nor Mexicans. Both were written on the fly in my paraphrasing. As such, I was shooting more for grammatical symmetry, not for semantic sense. Aristotle and Mexicans were the first to come to my mind…

what is more, depending on the part of the country, they might want to be known as hispanics…at least in new mexico, they do.

12 generations goes back a ways. if it should go beyond the guadalupe-hidalgo treaty then they would denominate themselves hispanic or even spanish…i think

we were writing at the same time…and sorry…

as you know, syntax is where i fail every time.

that’s why i got a D in comp 2

ohh…and i guess i didn’t read that parenthesis.

silly me!

will have some comments on the contamination article soon…that’s a little more my speed. :P

however, i think you added that parenthesis.

but, i am known to be a really bad reader when i’m just quickly glancing at something

No, in this case, the parenthesis was there the whole time! :)

I just moved the parenthesis, by the way, to make it more visible (and to fix a markup problem).

I’d vote for rewriting all the sentences, myself. If the syntax and diction are causing that many problems, it suggests—to me, at least—that it’s time to start from scratch.

To be fair, these are only four sentences of 30 pages.

Further, sometimes, given the right audience and platform, it is advantageous to be jargony—whether in diction or syntax or both, Orwell be damned. These sentences fit a lit.crit. mold that is probably better to conform to than to break. In that sense, I defer to the writer to judge his audience, and the voice appropriate for it. The journal editor may disagree, but I shouldn’t make that judgement. Within reason, of course. In an earlier draft, I did make that judgement, and the writer started from scratch for ten pages.)

i’m glad you made up the subject matter of some of the sentences…i was really wondering what kind of topic the paper was on!

Well—yes—this is why, intolerant Orwell freak that I am, I don’t edit stuff, at least not very often. I do recognize my own limitations, at least sometimes.

Orwellians can be sooo tiresome, insufferable linguistic simpletons that they are!!!

:)

OK, I’ll stop picking on you. Some of the problems ought to be explained if I allow that the writer, while more than fluent in English, is an ESL writer. So far as I have seen and read (and Jeremy probably can speak to this more authoritatively, although he’s not a very good case in point, seeing as how he was raised on four languages and can’t write none of ‘em grammatically), most ESL writers that aren’t named Vladimir Nabokov (etc.) never completely lose that touch of ungrammaticality.

At the very least, it takes a long time, and patient editors—of which I’m trying to learn to be.