I've mentioned previously that, as a former editor, I'm bothered more than most people by bad prose and typographical errors. Most poker publications are about average in the quality of their editing, compared to the magazine industry as a whole. Card Player is quite a bit better than average. Given its relatively small market, they do an admirable job over there.
Then there's one that is just horrible: Poker Player newspaper (http://www.pokerplayernewspaper.com/). It is riddled with more errors and just plain awful, first-draft writing than any publication that I regularly read in any subject. It's as if they don't know what a copy editor is. For them, I'll explain: it's a person whose job it is to fix at least the obvious problems with spelling, grammar, and punctuation. If this person is also authorized to help the writers with clarity, forcefulness, euphony, rhythm, and other aspects of good writing, all the better. But at a bare minimum, you have to weed out the errors that make it look like it was written by sixth-graders, or you lose credibility with readers and advertisers who care about the language.
Not the entire publication is this way. Columns by Mike Caro and I. Nelson Rose are almost always pristine, or nearly so. At the other end of the spectrum are the pieces by Jennifer Matilan and Donald Woods (who, in his most recent column, wrote that something increased "traumatically," when he presumably meant "dramatically"--hey, no problem, they mean almost the same thing, right?). It appears that for both of them having a coherent thought is a Herculean struggle, let alone putting it into words.
Given this range in the quality of writing, I get the distinct impression that the writers send their work in, and it gets shunted directly to the layout people for placement on the page, without anybody ever looking at it critically for problems with the clarity, orthography, and general writing quality. There is no copy editor mentioned in the staff listing, which, I suppose, shouldn't be too surprising.
Well, I've finally had my fill of it. I've been reading this rag consistently for well over a year without saying or doing anything about it, and the slow boil has finally set off the kettle's whistle. I'm feeling like Howard Beale in "Network":
You've got to say, "I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!" So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to
get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and
yell, "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"
OK, maybe I'm not quite that hot and bothered, but it is damn annoying to have such good information sullied by such lousy writing and editing week after week after week.
So I'm going to do something about it--something possibly even more effective than sticking my head out the window and yelling at the neighbors.
I've spent the last few hours going through the current issue with a pen and circling all of the examples I could find of typos, misuses of punctuation, sentence fragments, missing words, ambiguities, and just plain bad writing. I then typed them all out in this format:
Original: Relying solely on hyper aggressive play
Corrected: Relying solely on hyper-aggressive play
Comment: I could also live with an unhyphenated hyperaggressive, but hyper aggressive as two separate words is unambiguously wrong.
Original: Yang’s a long time fan of
Corrected: Yang is a long-time fan of
Comment: This is another one of a zillion compound adjectives that, for some reason, you don’t want to hyphenate. As for the contraction, it’s usually better in formal and semi-formal writing to omit the great majority of them. There are exceptions, but this is not one of them. (Lest you think me a hypocrite, I do not judge the present communication to be either formal or semi-formal. My intention is to write just as I would speak if we were face to face. For that purpose, things like it’s and don’t in this paragraph work better than the alternative, because it is and do not would sound unnatural.) Here the reader’s eye sees Yang’s and expects the next word to be a noun, because Yang’s looks like a possessive pronoun. Yang’s isn’t technically wrong here, but you remove the ambiguity, look less lazy, and simultaneously inject a touch of elegance into the writing by omitting the contraction.
Original: just as respectable as chess…
Corrected: just as respectable as chess.
Comment: I mentioned the misuse of the ellipsis earlier. Matiran is a flagrant offender, doing this four times in one column. This is a sure sign of somebody who simply has no clue about how to use standard punctuation. Aside from the obvious case of an omission from a quotation, the only legitimate use of the ellipsis is to indicate an unfinished thought or a trailing off into silence (the technical term for which is aposiopesis). There are occasions when this rhetorical device might be appropriate in a column, but not a single one of Matiran’s four uses is of this nature.
I was planning on doing the entire issue, but just couldn't stomach it after the first six hours or so. I made it through half of the contents, and the list of problems takes up 14 pages in a Microsoft Word document--and most of them do not have extensive comments like the examples above.
Next I'm going to email this document to the publisher, editor, and managing editor, with a suggestion that they are sorely in need of a good copy editor. If they want to hire me for the job, I just might take it. Of course, it's more likely that they'll just ignore me as a raving lunatic. They can't cut off my subscription in retaliation, though, because I pick it up free at poker rooms around town. (Perhaps they'll require the rooms to post my picture with a warning, "Do not give our publication to this man!")
Regardless of what the response is, your intrepid reporter will faithfully post it here.