Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Lady with the Blue Pencil

Helene had no literary theories — she had literary values. She valued clarity and transparency. She had nothing against style, if it didn’t distract from the material. Her blue pencil struck at redundancy, at confusion, at authorial vanity, at the wrong and the false word, at the unearned conclusion. She loved good writing, therefore she loved the reader: good writing did not cause the reader to stumble over meaning. By the time Helene was finished with me seven years later, I knew how to read a sentence and how to fix one. I knew what a sentence was supposed to do. I began to write my own sentences; needless to say, the responsibility for them is my own.
I very much enjoyed Dorothy Gallaher's tribute to her copy editor, Helene Pleasants, in the New York Times. Maybe all writers need a Helene to knock them into shape!

1 comment:

bokkseller said...

Hey Sharon,

Thought I'll share a link that might interest you: