Ocular Enema: Is the Excellence of Writing an Endangered Species?

August 1, 2015

/rant on

Under the new direction of Common Core architect David Coleman, the College Board has dumbed down the SAT by making it easier for students of the Common Core system to score higher. For example, they will abolish the writing section and the hard vocabulary words.

As a publisher, I question whether public education is a viable alternative any longer, if this is their idea quality higher learning. I’ve seen test results where misspelled words were marked correct because “they were close enough.” I’ve seen teachers who marked words as being spelled incorrectly, or questioned word usage – and they were in the wrong (never try to outwit an editor, teachers) – because their standards of education were sub-par.

I have tough words for those who believe in lowering the bar to include the less capable; the real world of publishing doesn’t believe in “close enough.” We believe in excellence and will accept nothing less.

On more than one occasion, I’ve rejected queries based solely on the abysmal spelling attempts. And yes, I do comment on this being the reason for the rejection. And on those occasions, I’ve had authors write back to inform me that I’m a dinosaur (this is probably true, since I’m staring down the gun barrel of 60) and that excellence isn’t about the ability to spell, but the content.

This devastates me on a personal and professional basis because effective writing is all about effective communication – and anyone answering the call to the literary world should already have this stamped on their forehead. If I have to train my eye to recognize that the spelling of “enough” has made the magical transformation to “enuf,” then my visual cortex will quickly reach for the smelling salts. If some Einstein decides the spelling should be “enuph,” then where does my brain go for an ocular enema?

My editorial self is unsettled because we’re in the process of breeding a generation of “gud enuf.” Instead of demanding distinction, the educational system, for some incoherent reason, is tossing up its hands and appealing to the lowest common denominator. Naturally, the logic of this escapes me. But more importantly, how is lowering standards good for future writers? Shouldn’t everyone be taught to transcend the mediocre? I hold Behler authors to an extremely high model of fabulosity, which is why I adore each and every one of them. Not only have their lives encompassed experiences that humble me, but they can write like the wind. I’d like to think readers appreciate this.

As I continue to scratch my head in search of sanity, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Just so you know, I don’t see this as a political football, but a quality issue that affects the future of our writing community, so please don’t post anything about politics here. I will let The Rescue Beagles eat those.

/rant off


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