Reading Like a Writer: The Artful Edit

Here is an interesting sentence: “Surprise is the drug of editors.” It’s from The Artful Edit by Susan Bell, an excellent book about sentence-level editing.

If I’m reading like a writer, this sentence can teach me several things. For example, it’s an example of surprise because of the interesting comparisons it makes. Most readers probably won’t have thought of surprise as a drug. Whether its user is an addict or in need of healing, drugs are desired. Surprise is part of what editors–and readers–want and Bell provides that insight. It’s presented so directly and gracefully, it makes me smile.

Finally, the sentence demonstrates the power of brevity. Not to go on too long, but part of the appeal of the sentence is how memorable it is. It’s memorable because it is both short and good advice.

For writers then: make your comparisons interesting and be concise.

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