Imagine lounging on a couch with a cup of tea and a real, physical book that you actually want to read. (In this scenario, you also have a few spare hours, because why not dream big.) You’re at a the lake house, with a real book. Here, you can get lost in serpentine sentences, buildup, poetic description. This author may have read one of the classic books on editing—On Writing Well, On Writing, or Bird by Bird.
Most of our reading experiences, sadly, involve waiting in line with our smartphones. Most reading takes place in the world of clicks and pixels, of devices and stolen moments. Yet many writers online still write like readers have endless energy and time to read.
We don’t have lots of time to read: we’re tired. We’re busy. And in this scenario, our brains function differently. While reading is still the main point of our focus, pixels mean that our attention is easily disrupted.
But what are you doing right now? What else is vying for your attention? Everything.
That’s why my vote for the most underrated editing book in the world is Letting Go of the Words.
Don’t balk at the state of literature or bemoan the impact of the internet on literacy. Empathize with your audience. Be realistic about how many resources people can actually devote to your words and ideas. Edit as needed.