On May 26, BE THE EDITOR posted the third image in its series. The post asked the following:
“Does this sentence make you go "hmmm"? What question or questions might you ask the writer?”
This is actually a great way to frame it because, as editors, our job isn’t to always be right. More often than not, our job is to query. Stylistic editors, in particular, must ask writers about their intended meanings. Their job is to create clarity.
So take this sentence for example: “People who aren’t super strong like me will also find this difficult.”
The question that might automatically arise in your mind is whether the writer is saying she is super strong (and others aren’t strong like her) or she and the others aren’t super strong.
I wouldn’t automatically suggest putting commas in here. Depending on the writer’s response to my query, I might suggest a rewrite.
One of the BE THE EDITOR participants suggested, that the negative is unnecessary, and the writer could find a clearer, more concise way to say "not super strong." This is excellent advice and, of course, it all depends on how the writer responds.
If the writer says, “I’m super strong, but others aren’t,” we have some options.
● People who aren’t as strong as I am will find this difficult.
(I suggest removing “also” in this sentence as it adds confusion.)
● People who are as weak as I am will also find this difficult.
Sometimes sentences have confused or dual meanings. If you hear that little, quiet “Huh?” in your mind as you read, take a step back and re-read. This is more difficult in your own writing because you know what you mean even if others don’t. That’s why a second set of eyes—trained eyes especially—are invaluable.
If you want to know why I’m not putting commas around the relative clause, please ask. I’d be happy to give you more grammar info!
Meet the Editor
I'm Coreen, and I am a copy editor, writer, instructor, digital marketer, and student of PR and Communications for organizations doing positive work in the world.