“If editors put themselves in other people’s shoes and thought about how they could be hurting them, then these problems would be minimized.”

I imagine the “problems” my student meant to refer to have to do with manuscript rejections, although that surmise rests solely on the sentence itself: I can’t recall any assignment, in my many many many assignment-assigning days, that had to do with frustrated authors.

At any rate. Aside from its rambling wordiness, the only thing that ails this sentence is faulty pronoun reference. It doesn’t stem from a compulsive substitution of “they” for a singular noun, as so many reference problems do as students dance around the gender risks of the singular pronoun: here, all the nouns are plural. Hence, ironically, the confusion of pronoun reference, of course.

All of us readers just KNOW this sentence expresses a plea for more sympathy in the tight-shoe area. If only editors put themselves in other people’s shoes and thought about how those shoes could be hurting those people… Isn’t that the meaning that forces itself forward here? Or perhaps if editors put themselves in other people’s shoes and thought about how painful the misfitted shoes are on them (the editors), or what damage could be done by wearing shoes of the wrong size perhaps: then the “problems” in the sentence suddenly might be the problems of compulsive shoe-appropriation, nothing to do with manuscripts at all!

I knew what he meant. If editors realized how painful getting a rejection letter can be for a person who has poured his or her life and love into a manuscript, then they would at least write nicer letters, minimizing the depression problem on the recipient’s end. Something like that. But getting to that meaning is possible only on second reading, or maybe even third reading (something the editors probably don’t give those manuscripts, come to think of it, those heartless bastards, unfeeling bureaucrats, robotic market-driven stupid condescending snobs—fill in the blank here according to your own frustration level vis à vis publishers).

I like the first reading best, and would suggest to any aspiring author that sending in a pair of your shoes along with your manuscript might produce some positive result, although I make no guarantees.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

3 responses to ““If editors put themselves in other people’s shoes and thought about how they could be hurting them, then these problems would be minimized.”

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