Saturday, February 12, 2011
I have several copyediting projects going on right now: a couple that pay well enough so that I don't get irritated if the writing's bad since, hey, I'm getting paid well enough to spend the time correcting the author's shit. And then there's the "other" project... the pay is a penny per word which, in cases of "normal" writing, would end up being a decent hourly wage. Except in this case.
What takes so long to copyedit here is the horribly convoluted writing that I often have to read two or three times to simply figure out the meaning of before I can even begin to figure out how to rewrite it. (I'm too drained by it to even copy and paste an example to show here.) As with life, when you're constantly slogging through shit, you start to doubt yourself: "Am I just an angry, irritated person? Or is this SHIT what's irritating me??" This murky stage might go on for a while, but in my experience there's almost always a clarifying moment when things get so outrageously bad that the lightbulb finally goes off: "It's not ME, it's YOU!"
In this case: The constantly incorrectly written prose was the angering, irritating murk. The outrageous, clarifying "YOU'RE CRAZY" moment(s):
(1) "In the 1940s, actress Greta Garbot insured her legs for $1 million."
(2) "When the Twin Towers were hit in 2002... After the 2002 attack on the Twin Towers..."
The person that wrote the above got paid about triple what I get paid. He or she is allegedly an expert in the field, or wouldn't have been commissioned to write the text. And yet...
Let me address the most obvious first: 2002? Not once (perhaps an honest mistake), but TWICE?? Really?
As for the insuring of legs in the '40s:
First, the name "Garbo" (sans "t" at the end) is, or should be, common knowledge. Maybe not common knowledge for a 16-year-old high-school drop-out, but common knowledge, nonetheless, for any adult with even a smidgeon of general education. And especial knowledge for an author writing on the topic.
Second: Since when has Garbo ever been known for her legs? Garbo, in a "great-leg context," has never, EVER even been bandied about pop-culturally. (In actuality, in the '40s, both Betty Grable and Marlene Dietrich did indeed have their legs insured for large sums, which was widely reported in the general press at the time and passed along to legend today. Garbo, on the other hand, famously retired from films after 1941, still best known for her FACE.)