The One-Third Principle

On the days when I’m wearing my editor hat, I write revision letters.  On the days when I’m wearing my writer hat, sometimes I have to read them — and having read them, have to do something about them.

On those days, I spend a lot of time dealing with what I think of as the one-third principle of editorial commentary.  The way it works is this:

In any given set of editorial comments, roughly one third of them are going to inspire sentiments along the lines of “Oh, thank God you caught that before I ended up looking like an idiot in public!” or “Yes, that is absolutely true and insightful and every writer should be so fortunate as to have someone like you for an editor!”

Another third of the commentary is going to cause a reaction more along the lines of “Well, maybe . . . I’m not saying that I buy it, but it isn’t worth arguing over, either.  I might as well save my energy and make the changes.”

And the final third of the commentary is going to be the cause of neck-cracking double-takes and exclamations of “Say what?!” and “Over my dead body am I changing that!”  Which is, of course, where the saved energy  gained by not arguing over the middle third ends up getting spent.

When I put my editorial hat back on, I try to remember these things.

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