SHOOTING THE BREEZE
BAD ENGLISH SAYS SO MUCH
By Eric C. Forbes
YOU CAN’T IMAGINE the number of execrable manuscripts that land on my desk. It seems everyone wants to be a writer nowadays even if they can’t string a proper sentence together (and one that makes sense). I always tell bad writers that I only edit English. And they say what they have written is English. And I say that’s not English, that’s no English at all, believe me.
The main impression, for what it is worth, is how very little good writing there is in Malaysia. That’s not surprising, really, if truth be told. Let us not kid ourselves any longer: writing is a difficult task, and there aren’t many people who can do it well enough.
Fractured, mangled English has been (and will always be) the bane of my life. Most manuscripts are so atrociously written that I prefer not to look at them at all. A bonfire, that’s where they belong. Either that or I flush it down the you-know-where. I hate myself for saying this, but step into my shoes and you will understand what I mean. Editing bad manuscripts is such a waste of life and natural resources. Such books leave you cold and emotionless. Believe me when I say that I have had the dubious honour of editing some of the worst books on this sad planet of ours.
We have more than enough writers as it is. What the world desperately needs is, I think, more readers who appreciate good writing and make discerning book-buying decisions. I always say, “If you can’t write, don’t bother. Spare the world the pain and agony of reading your writing. If you want to write, go ahead and write, but do it properly.” If you write well, I am with you all the way.
The editing somehow doesn’t get any easier through the years because the quality of manuscripts leaves much to be desired. Of course, once in a blue moon, I still chance upon wonderful manuscripts that make wonderful books. As an editor, I live for those moments, rare though they are.