The Case Against Editing

Laura Ritchie
Laura Ritchie

When I was in college I was one of the few females in my philosophy courses. It could be intimidating, sure, but in general I felt accepted and enjoyed my classes and got along well with my peers. Imagine my surprise when one day a female professor asked me to her office. It wasn’t to discuss my performance or grades, it was for her to critique the way I interacted with my classmates. I giggle a lot, I think everything is funny, it’s a part of my personality. But, for her, as someone extremely familiar with the academic scene, it was an infantilizing trait that I should get rid of it if I wanted to be taken seriously.

I didn’t even try to make a change. If people can’t take me seriously because of a value neutral personality trait, that’s a shortcoming of their perceptions, not of my abilities.

That is the way the world works. There are innocuous things like laughing too much that affect the way others perceive you because all our opinions are mired within historical, social, and philosophical perspectives that only denote tradition. We value what aligns with the perspective we happen to find ourselves in, like girls who giggle are dumber than girls who act like men. In social situations we call this respectability, in writing, we call it quality.

We resist change. We think everything good or different is bad. Good things, QUALITY things, can only occur when they come in the same package as things important people have already told us are good. All great writing will be longform, highly edited, and look and sound like what we are used to.

Yes, editing is useful but it is not the mark of good content that we make it out to be. I hear people say things like “if a post has a spelling error in it I can’t take it seriously.” How is it possible that the ideas being talked about should be submissive in your eyes to the minutiae of how it is being presented? It’s a distraction, a way to ensure that only a certain type of ideas get talked about, or that discourse is reserved for a specific group of people.

As a producer, I work with a lot of writers. Some of them I don’t speak to often and select whatever they send me that is interesting. Others I accept everything they send me because they have good ideas and they are growing as writers, even if each individual piece isn’t McSweeney’s material. I don’t work for McSweeney’s, I’m not bound by the same restrictions in terms of which content I’m allowed to like or think is “good.”

It’s these ideas of edited or curated or “quality” pieces of content that are a red herring from encouraging people to look deeply and critically at everything in life. A critical brain shouldn’t have an on/off switch between reading McSweeney’s and watching the Kardashians. You can find a good idea or an interesting idea anywhere, you don’t have to wait for someone to hand it to you or package it up in a way that your brain will recognize as “smart.” TC mark

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