Editing Your Lover

My Comments Are in No Way Indicative of My Feelings

John William Godward, “Le Billet Doux (The Love Letter)” (1913)

What possesses someone to ask their lover to edit them? You know what I’m talking about — when your sweetheart casually hands you a sample of their writing (i.e., a piece of their soul) with the loaded instructions “Tell me what you honestly think.” Making you want to reply in sing-song, “Is this a test? Surely you jest,” because unless it’s actually good (!) you can only imagine two scenarios, both of which end in relationship wreckage: your darling will hate you for hating their writing, and/or you’ll hate them for writing something that you hate.

The kind of writing that makes you question for a second whether you’re actually attracted to your sweet pea, because you never in your wildest dreams thought that you could give your heart to someone who couldn’t give a fuck about prepositions. But only for a second, and then you’re back to being filled with appreciation for how they always make you laugh. After all, their tendency to leave participles a-danglin’ — seriously, who does that — is nothing compared to the way they gently stroke your hair.

You just thought, well, if they can pay taxes and vote, surely they can formulate a coherent thesis, and maybe even express it in a sentence or two. God knows they had no trouble expressing themselves when you accidentally set their cat on fire that one time.

Anyway, imperfect English means that the person knows another language, something like that, so you shouldn’t sneer at them. Although perhaps in your darling’s case English is their first and really, only, language, so what excuse do they have? (What, were they going to write something better in Latin? Ha!) And if your baby isn’t a native English speaker, and you’re fortunate enough to not know their mother tongue, you can pretend that in not-English they’re more or less non-English Virginia Woolf.

Let’s be real, this is elitism on your part. Is the crime of clearly missing words here and there — like anyone ever died from reading over what they wrote — truly as bad as the crime of reinforcing social hierarchies by participating in the arbitrary rituals of the upper class? (By the way, is there a limit to the number of comments you can leave on Microsoft Word before it implodes?) Your dearest did you a favor by forcing you to embark on a long, long journey of self-reflection. They’re so thoughtful!

Hi Georgie.

In all seriousness, you love your honey bun, you just don’t necessarily love their writing all the time. It’s not like you would love them more if they were physically capable of writing something that isn’t totally mediocre, even if you do secretly think that George Orwell is a fine mustachioed specimen.

And so, for all the hapless editors of lovers out there, this Valentine’s Week I’ve loosely adapted some guidelines from our Writing Advice E(i)ditorial, an article you may want to pass on to your linguistically-challenged but still pleasingly pretty paramour. Maybe then they’ll come to you with a paper that actually meets the standards of an introductory college writing seminar, or better yet, spare you the misery of having to decide between your commitment to grammar and your commitment to your love — even though in the event that they do of course you’ll read it with tenderness because that’s what a supportive partner does, and your sweetie pie was very nice to you the last time you were sick.

Pro-tip: If you just add “in bed” to our writing advice it’s actually kind of hilarious! “Bottom-up techniques (in bed),” “Break the rules (in bed),” etc.

Happy Valentine’s Week!

Your new mantra: “I care about you, I’m just not totally incompetent.”

And that’s not your fault. Remember, separate the paper from the person. Paper =/= person. The paper equals the person not. The paper and the person are hardly the same entity.

This is true of both you and your better (except when it comes to writing, apparently) half.

On that note, master the rhetorical move litotes.

Instead of: “This is the most painful thing I’ve ever read.”
Try: “This is not excruciating on the scale of a root canal.”

Instead of: “Your writing has no personality.”
Try: “I would definitely rather read this than the full text of the Affordable Care Act.”

I think that’s how it works. Cicero did it.

Be open to pushback and criticism of your own writing.

Also, possibly that time you insulted their mother, who continues to hate you for no reason.

Breathe often.

It will keep you from saying anything you don’t mean, and more importantly, anything you do mean. Not to mention that breathing is essential to survival, so this is good general life advice.

If you’re working with a hard copy, consider using invisible ink.

Okay, not for all of it — unless you want to do the whole “Honey, it’s perfect! Let’s go back to watching Hulu” bit. But this way you don’t have to lie, and your sugar never has to know. Just make sure that they don’t start randomly scribbling over the sheet with crayon, or read it under an ultraviolet light.

Edit, just…edit.

By which I mean, don’t tell your special friend what’s wrong with their writing, just fix it. And if they happen to be a man, you have a good chance of convincing them that it was their idea in the first place.

Get an editing buddy.

Preferably one neither of you are close to, and who doesn’t care about your boo’s feelings, so that you can give the task to them. If for some reason they do care, you can irrationally accuse your beloved of having an affair with them, leave, and avoid doing the actual editing part. Crisis averted!

Let go of perfectionism by about 15%.

You are now using a sliding scale. That standard you set for yourself? No longer applies. If it’s good enough to make you 85% satisfied had it been your writing, that translates to: “Simply wonderful, dear!”

This guideline broadly applies to the rest of your relationship.

Have a lover who writes well.

Be willing to give up a lover who doesn’t.

Break the window…

…and run. Just run. Don’t look back. Better things await.

Yung In Chae can usually be found either eating a burrito or being a burrito (in bed).