Part 2

Who’s A Bulletin Editor?

Good question. Ideally, he would be a man with good grammar, spelling and punctuation skills; a man with good written communication skills; a man inquisitive of mind and alert to events around him; a man who can improve the writing of others (yes, edit); a man with some knowledge of page layout, typography and printing; a man with sufficient time to do a thorough job; a man with the tools and equipment necessary to publish. Rarely does such a man exist.

Usually the job falls to the man least reluctant to accept it. Usually he will possess some of the desirable attributes. Rarely more than a few. Frequently he will be among the hardest working, most unsung men in a chapter, spending more solitary time at his task than any other chapter official.

Hence this Bulletin Editors Manual

In the pages to follow, we shall try to ease the burden of experienced and novice editors alike; sometimes with specific instructions, sometimes with guidance and references. The contributors to this manual are not all- knowing. Readers are urged to use it as a “base camp” from which to launch exploratory excursions into the wonderful world of editing and publishing.

Realistically, little can be said here to significantly improve an editor’s basic grasp of writing skills. For most of us, our last exposure to formal training in English grammar was back in high school, or perhaps the first year or so of college.

For many of us, what we remember from those years will have to do.

Author Jim Quinn, in his book, American Tongue and Cheek —a Populist Guide to Our Language, observes with both logic and humor, “For me, the only sensible standard of correctness is usage by ordinary people. We are the ones who do almost all of the inventing and changing, we are the ones who make English the living and exciting language it is.

“We talk—that’s English. And we know how to talk long before we go to school; in fact, except for vocabulary, a six-year-old child is essentially a language adult, who can use all the grammatical forms of English competently. We go to school not to learn English, but to learn that relatively rarer activity, called writing.

“We don’t go to school to learn how to talk—luckily. Luckily—as someone once pointed out—we don’t have to go to school to learn how to walk either.

“Or we’d be a nation of cripples.
“We do go to school to learn how to write. And thanks to what we learn, and how we’re taught, most Americans write like cripples. So they go to straighten out their writing—and come away with advice about as useful and sensible as shortening a short leg.”

Editors can, however, improve the quality of their work by simply acknowledging their shortcomings and referring often to a modest selection of reference works. For starters, a dictionary, a thesaurus and a grammar and punctuation guide will do. And supplementary reading of books on writing style can’t hurt.

Surprisingly, the study of writing and English usage need not, as is the study of economics, be “a dismal science.” There exist a great many sprightly, interesting books on the subjects, such as the one quoted above. A short selection of them is listed in the Appendix. Also in the Appendix are four brief and enlightening essays about style, spelling, punctuation and writing with clarity. They’re succinct, interesting, humorous and written by experts. Read them


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