Editing Practice

editing practice

Getting in the habit of looking critically at everything you see in print is a good way to become a much better writer and thinker. To this end, I did a little editing practice with a movie review I found on Internet Movie Database, a place I like to go to learn about movies before I watch them. An IMDB review of the film Wounded reminded me that the road to literary hell is paved with good intentions.

From what I can gather, many (if not all) IMDB reviews are written by amateur rather than professional reviewers. Most reviews are informative, but usually they contain plenty of errors, which makes them ideal for editing practice.

(Here’s a link to the review, which is the first of two on the Wounded IMDB page.)

Editing practice on a review of the film Wounded

Here’s the original review:

“The forest rangers Julie Clayton and her boyfriend Don Powell find several grizzly-bear slaughtered in the forest. They report to their superior and he comes with the FBI Agent Eric Ashton and his partner and other rangers. They team-up and go to the wilderness by helicopter to seek out the poacher. However, the man kills the rangers and the FBI agent and Julie is seriously wounded. She miraculously survives and learns that her beloved Don was murdered. Julie is deeply affected but when she meets the alcoholic police detective Nick Rollins, he motivates her to live with hate planning revenge. Meanwhile the FBI decides to use Julie as bait to catch the poacher Hanaghan. But Hanaghan has developed a weird attraction for Julie.”

The first thing you notice is that the paragraph is way too long. I’ll fix it in the final version.

Sentence-by-sentence analysis & revision

ORIGINAL: The forest rangers Julie Clayton and her boyfriend Don Powell find several grizzly-bear slaughtered in the forest.

REVISED: Forest rangers Julie Clayton and her boyfriend, Don Powell, find several grizzly bears slaughtered in the forest.

  • There’s no need to call them “The” forest rangers.
  • Assuming Don is her only boyfriend, his name needs to be set off with commas.
  • Since when is “grizzly bear” a compound word?
  • “Bear” is an acceptable plural, but “bears” is better.

ORIGINAL: They report to their superior and he comes with the FBI Agent Eric Ashton and his partner and other rangers.

REVISED: They call in a report to their superior, and he arrives with FBI Agent Eric Ashton, Ashton’s partner and other rangers.

  • The “report” had to be made by phone, otherwise the superior couldn’t “come” to them.
  • Comma needed after “superior.”
  • I would say “arrives” instead of “comes.”
  • There’s that “the” again. It’s just “FBI Agent . . .”
  • The review writer correctly capitalized “Agent,” although it probably wasn’t by design. If a title precedes a person’s name, in most cases you should capitalize it. If a title follows a name: “Eric Ashton is an FBI agent.”
  • The three-subject list with “and” used twice is okay, but I would remove the first “and.” And I would clarify that the partner is Eric’s, not the superior’s.

ORIGINAL: They team-up and go to the wilderness by helicopter to seek out the poacher.

REVISED: They team up and fly by helicopter into the wilderness to find the poacher.

  • This reviewer has a habit of turning two separate words into a compound word. Team up, not team-up.
  • “Go to the wilderness” is fine and correct, though a better way to say it might be, “fly by helicopter into the wilderness.”
  • I would say “find” rather than “seek out.”

ORIGINAL: However, the man kills the rangers and the FBI agent and Julie is seriously wounded.

REVISED: However, the poacher kills the rangers and Ashton, and Julie is seriously wounded.

  • “However” isn’t the best way to start this sentence, but I’m not going to worry about it during this go-through.
  • “the man” needs to be identified as the poacher.
  • Since we know the name of the FBI agent, I would use it.
  • A comma should go after “agent.”

ORIGINAL: She miraculously survives and learns that her beloved Don was murdered.

REVISED: She miraculously survives and learns that her beloved Don is dead.

  • In the movie, she was shot in the leg and chest, so “miraculously” is okay.
  • I would have said “is dead” instead of “was murdered.” Just my own feeling about the wording.

ORIGINAL: Julie is deeply affected but when she meets the alcoholic police detective Nick Rollins, he motivates her to live with hate planning revenge.

REVISED: Julie is deeply affected, but when she meets alcoholic Police Detective Nick Rollins, he motivates her to live with hate and plan revenge.

  • The alcoholic.” Maybe the person who wrote this review is an alcoholic.
  • Capitalize the title before the name: “Police Detective Nick Rollins,” assuming those first two words constitute his official title as opposed to just “Detective.” It’s a movie, so we have no way of knowing. But at least one of the words should be capitalized.
  • Commas are needed after “affected” and “hate,” but I would say “live with her hate and plan revenge.” Having watched the movie, I wouldn’t have written this sentence this way, because it doesn’t accurately describe Nick’s influence and Julie’s response to it.

ORIGINAL: Meanwhile the FBI decides to use Julie as bait to catch the poacher Hanaghan.

REVISED: Meanwhile, the FBI decides to use Julie as bait to catch Hanaghan.

  • Comma after “meanwhile.”
  • The poacher’s name is introduced too late. In my final revision below, I’ll put it where it should go. (Efficient editing practice includes not only fixing structures but also making sure the flow and introduction of information makes sense.) Also, if you were going to use this sentence as is, the “the” in front of “poacher,” in this case, is necessary, and a comma should come after “poacher,” because Hanaghan is the only poacher.

ORIGINAL: But Hanaghan has developed a weird attraction for Julie.

REVISED: But Hanaghan has developed a weird attraction to Julie.

  • “Attraction to,” not “attraction for.” You’re attracted to something, not for it.
  • This isn’t a good way to end the review. The reader will want to know what kind of “weird attraction” and what it leads to. Again, having watched the movie, if I were going to introduce this part of the plot, I would have written it differently. But for now:

FINAL EDITING PRACTICE REVISION – three paragraphs, includes some new edits

Forest rangers Julie Clayton and her boyfriend, Don Powell, find several grizzly bears slaughtered in the forest. They call in a report to their superior, and he arrives with FBI Agent Eric Ashton, Ashton’s partner and other rangers.

They team up and fly by helicopter into the wilderness to find Hanaghan the poacher. Hanaghan kills the rangers and Ashton, and Julie is seriously wounded. She miraculously survives but is deeply affected when she learns her beloved Don is dead.

Soon she meets alcoholic Police Detective Nick Rollins, who motivates her to live with hate and plan revenge. Meanwhile, the FBI decides to use Julie as bait to catch Hanaghan. But Hanaghan has developed a weird attraction to Julie.

THE END

There’s plenty of bad writing out there (and some more here), and it’s the writer’s job to make sure he or she doesn’t contribute to it. Editing practice to make you sharper and more cognizant of trouble in your text will help.

My revision is hardly Pulitzer Prize-winning material, but you can see how clarity and readability were improved considerably. More could still be done to it, but I’ve already spent an hour and a half on this editing practice exercise (including the commentary, posting and formatting), and this is as far as my pro bono work goes.

 

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