Writing Non-Fiction posted May 11, 2010

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A suggestion on reviewing

Rewriting Another's Work

by AlvinTEthington

Please read the whole short essay before commenting
Although I am not singling any one person out, there has been a tendency lately for reviewers to re-write an author's works. This is highly unprofessional and a professional reviewer who did this mostly likely would be dismissed. Reviewers can certainly point out bumps or jarring places, but to re-write an author's work makes the work the reviewer's, not the author's. (Punctuation, of course, is an exception.) It also assumes that the reviewer knows better what the author wants to communicate than the author. To me, at least, that is a form of pedantry. I sometimes spend an hour deciding what word I want to use, and then a reviewer reads a piece and decides that reviewer knows better what I meant after spending less time on it.

Also, I often write in dialect, which some reviewers feel need to be corrected to standard English. I write in dialect for a reason, since I write a reading experience and I want the reader to hear the dialect. If a reviewer does not like my word choice, please tell me, but don't tell me what to write--I know what I mean and I know how to use a dictionary and a thesaurus. I'll certainly take a reviewer's criticism into consideration, but the work is mine, not the reviewer's. As I said, I am not singling any one person out, but a person new to the site who has little literary experience may feel that he or she can do that as well. That is a huge cause of frustration for me, because often the suggestions made lose the aesthetic formal quality of my work.

Professional reviewing is hard work. One has to have a large working vocabulary, a good knowledge of syntax, and know the proper way to use the subjunctive (which is moribund in English.) My professor friends write book reviews and they would never consider telling an author what word to use. I consider this to be a very dangerous trend on this site, as it does not take into account the immense amount of work some of us put in our literature.

Thank you for reading this essay.

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