A is for Attitude

Jan 20, 2024 | Editing | 0 comments

Some people can write with both hands. If you can, you’re ambidextrous, a word derived from the Latin roots ambi-, meaning “both”, and dexter, meaning “favorable” or “right”. I can’t write with both hands (I’m left-handed) but I am edidextrous.

The Triple-R (Ragini’s Rowdy Reference) dictionary defines edidextrous as coming from the verb to edit, meaning “to modify text in preparation for publication” and dexter, in its “favorable” sense.

So, my made-up word describes someone who can edit on both sides of a sheet of paper, as it were. On the one side I edit for other people, and on the other, for myself. I’m a language editor by profession, helping Dutch academics polish the English of their articles in preparation for publication in international journals. And of course, I edit my own writing.

As someone favored with the skills of edidexterity, I’d like to share three important insights I’ve gained over the years. I call these insights the A-B-Cs of self-editing. To begin at the beginning…


Every writer makes mistakes, even the best of all published authors, you can bet your bottom line on that. We’re only human, as the saying goes, and that counts for writers too. As that doyen of the one-liner, Robert Orben says:  “To err is human—and to blame it on a computer is even more so.”

But we’re better off not blaming our tools for the mistakes we make. Instead, we should develop an unjudgmental attitude that allows us to spot and not accept mistakes, whether they be tiny typos or more complicated stuff in word choice or grammar. Don’t be afraid. With this attitude, we can always fix our mistakes.

Without this attitude we find it hard to recognize that our work benefits from revision. Let’s face it, writers are… curiously… sensitive… especially about their newborn creations and believe me, as a writer myself I know how hard it is in that first flush of creation to accept that my brainchild is anything less than perfect.

No way can my writing be perfect after only one draft.

So, you need attitude. But this attitude needs time to develop so it’s wise to let your writing cool off, tucked out of sight in a drawer if needs be, to give you time to come down from that first wild rush—that feeling (better than chocolate) that makes writing such a heady pleasure. Wait long enough until you can be objective about your story and you’ll be in stronger and better shape to start polishing it.

Next time, I’ll deal with the B-side.

Featured image source: ProProfs Quiz


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