Clif Hotvedt's picture

Adermatoglyphia and Editing

An August 2011 study from [[wysiwyg_imageupload:107:]]
The American Journal of Human Genetics summarized in Science describes an extended Swiss family (10 members) with adermatoglyphia – or more simply – no fingerprints.  Also known as “Immigration delay disease” (and indeed it caused delay when a family member tried to enter the United States and had no distinguishable fingerprints), adermatoglyphia was found by Janna Nousbeck, Eli Sprecher and colleagues in Tel Aviv and Basel to be caused by a mutation in a gene located in the skin called SMARCAD1. 

What this paper got me thinking about metaphorically was the process of writing and editing.  The dynamic between the two is summarized in these two quotes: Red Smith, the late sports writer for the New York Times, was quoted as saying “There’s nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”  Alan Leschner, PhD, executive publisher of Science, has said he had a sign on his office wall that read, “There is no passion in the world as great as that to change another person’s draft.” 

To the writer, a piece can seem perfectly constructed, saying everything it has to clearly and elegantly.  Discreet, insightful editing may make that gem of a manuscript shine even brighter.  The tension between the two occurs when an editor does so more to leave his or her fingerprints on the piece than to materially improve it.  This acquired dermatoglyphopathy (or perhaps it’s genetic) is the bane of writers.  It doesn’t matter whether the writing is creative or a press release (or even a combination), the final product should best reflect the skills of both contributors.