Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ask an Editor

I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Anabela Cerezo, shortly after she ended her ten-year stint as chief copy editor for the London edition of the Wall Street Journal.

While I knew that Anabela could offer many enlightening comments on her career and the state of the editing profession, I wanted to get her perspective on the Obama presidency from the across the pond. The following are highlights.

Me: First, let me thank you, Anabela, for speaking with me today. I know you’re busy planning your retirement.

AC: Bud, any time spent not editing is a pleasure.

Me: Amen to that, Anabela. OK, so let’s take a look at some of the many issues on the president’s overflowing plate. First up, priorities. Should Obama focus on the environment or intelligence gathering?

AC: Place i before e except after c.

Me: How about the ongoing search for Bin Laden?

AC: A singular subject takes a singular verb, while a plural subject takes a plural verb.

Me: In terms of the financial crisis, who is more to blame, New York or Washington?

AC: To find the subject and verb, always find the verb first. Then ask who or what performed the verb.

Me: How do you see the prospects for improved relations between the U.S., Russia, and China?

AC: Between refers to two. Among is used for three or more.

Me: As they say, a trillion here, a trillion there, and we’re talking real money. What can Obama do to convey the scope of the economic problem?

AC: The simplest way to express large numbers is best. Round numbers are usually spelled out.

Me: There are many so-called experts chiming in with their recommended solutions to a host of problems. How are they doing in presenting their cases?

AC: Omit unnecessary words, and avoid a succession of loose sentences.

Me: And finally, some believe that Congress has too readily accommodated the president’s agenda. Is this claim legitimate?

AC: Use the active voice unless you specifically need to use the passive voice.

Me: Anabela, I want to thank you for taking time to speak with me this morning, and I appreciate, as always, your considered opinions. Best of luck to you.

AC: Bud, you’re more than welcome. And remember, always run spell-check.