Letters to the Bulletin

Why I probably won't be writing to the Bulletin again anytime soon...

I was amused to see a letter about one Letters problem reveal another!

Subject: Something lost in the publication
To: Mensa Bulletin Letters Editor
From: William W Patterson
Date: 5 Feb 2003

The final sentence of my letter published in the February Bulletin sounded awkward. Had I really written "something else other than"? What's that "else" doing in there? How embarrassing! How could I have missed it during my multiple proofreading passes? Maybe I better proofread my next submission yet another time before hitting Send! Then I thought, hey, wasn't the subject of my message "Literati"?... a title carefully chosen and rather cleverly appropriate if I do say so myself. So I cranked up my email (no hyphen in email, okay?) client and located the original. Yep, Literati. And surprise, that bit of my final sentence was, in the original, "make it something else, something other than". So I looked more closely, and found that the phrase "once upon a time" had been omitted, some parenthetical text had been deparenthesized and brought to the forefront in its stead, a slash had been removed from the word "in/activity" (significant because "IN/ACTIVE" was the title of the article mentioned), "%" had been converted to "percent" (okay, that one's rather trivial, but... why?), an occurrence of "which" had been replaced by "that", and "website" by "Web site". The published version retained the gist of my letter, but, I dunno, somehow it just wasn't mine anymore. Especially that last sentence.

William W. Patterson
Neniu fremdulo en Esperantujo!

Subject: RE: Something lost in the publication
To: William W Patterson
From: [Somebody]
Date: 6 Feb 2003

Hi, William!

This is how I get letters: [Sombody else] edits them and sends them to me. I edit them and send them to our proofers. They edit them and send them back to me, and I make corrections. So sometimes, things get changed, whether for style, consistency, or space.

We edit letters as we do all articles in the Bulletin - - by making them consistent with our style. For the most part, we follow AP (thus % is changed to percent, etc.) and regular English usage. Generally (though this doesn't apply to you) I take out or soften personal attacks against writers. (So, "Joe Blow is an idiot to suggest that ..." becomes "In my opinion, the article titled XX was incorrect in stating ...")

Sometimes I change titles and tighten up paragraphs either to make the sentence sound stronger or to conserve space.

Sorry you weren't happy with the way the letter was printed; I hope you continue to contribute to InterLoc and the Bulletin as you see fit.


Subject: RE: Something lost in the publication
To: [Somebody]
From: William W Patterson
Date: 9 Feb 2003

Hello, [Somebody]!

I'd certainly be grateful for a warning and the chance to correct spelling or grammatical errors, but the process you described is rather shocking. So much editing, proofreading and correcting of a text that has already been judged ready by its creator! Letters should reflect the style of the sender, not that of the receiver.

Customarily letters are either published or not. Changes, other than clearly marked points of excision, should be approved by the author before publication.

I'd suspect that most readers believe the letters they read to be the letters that were written. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to publish these two most recent letters of mine along with your replies, maybe as a mini-article or a sidebar to the Letters column; I'm afraid it's all grown too big to be a letter!


I mentioned this incident to some of my friends and on a local mailing list.
In a reply to one of the few people interested, I wrote...

Hehehe, I'm periodically (pun unintentional, really, it just came out that way... many of these things have nothing to do with publications) amazed by 1) things Mensa does and 2) how few members seem bothered by them!

Perhaps I'm just being naive, but this LTE editing really surprised me. Now whenever I read letters in the Bulletin I'll wonder how close they are to the originals. Whenever I see misspellings or grammatical errors, or odd word choices, or arguments that seem peculiar or weak, or strong for that matter, I'll wonder whether the fault (or credit) lies with the writers or the editors. When I reply, am I really replying to the author or the editors?

Funny thing is that if it hadn't been for that extraneous "else", made extraneous by the editors' removal of a comma and some surrounding text, I might never have known about this. Except for accidental printing errors I always believed that my letters would appear as written, so my embarrassment upon seeing that "else" prompted me to check the original. I just couldn't believe I'd written that. And, hehehe, I didn't.

8 Aprilo 2003 modifita.