What Shoes and Writing Have in Common

“A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice,” wrote C. S. Lewis. He was making the analogy to the liturgy in a church service, but the point is equally applicable to writing. (In fact, Lewis makes this comparison, too; he goes on to say, “Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling.”) Another comparison might be a window: you don’t want people looking at the piece of glass, noticing fingerprints and the dusty residue of raindrops. A good piece of writing doesn’t call attention to itself, but to the ideas it communicates.

My goal as a copyeditor is to help you achieve writing that your readers won’t notice. That doesn’t mean they won’t be able to appreciate your unique voice, or some bit of symbolism you’ve embedded in your story, or a particularly apt turn of phrase. Rather, they will appreciate these elements more because the smudges and stains won’t be in the way.

Of course, some of those smudges and stains are mechanical errors; other times, they are words and phrases you’re rather fond of that unfortunately call too much attention to themselves. With a little discipline and a sincere effort to be objective, you can eliminate many errors and unhelpful words on your own. In fact, I encourage all writers to clean up their work as best they can on their own. You don’t want to pay someone else to do what you could have done yourself, and performing this exercise will help you become an even better writer. But it is hard to edit one’s own work (and no one is more keenly aware of this fact than copyeditors!). That’s why I’m here. I want to help you produce a piece of writing that your readers don’t notice. They won’t be thinking, “Particularly” must be his favorite word; he’s used it three times already on this page! or That’s a convoluted sentence; I’m not sure which nouns went with which verbs. Let me go over that again. Instead, they’ll be too immersed in the ideas you’re communicating to think about individual words and parts of speech.

That’s my goal, anyway, and if it’s yours as well, I’d like to help you get there.

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