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Being part of the language police myself I really enjoyed this article by Tim Parks in the New York Review of Books. I am also one of those people who abides by grammar and punctuation rules and in my line of work I force writers to do the same. However I know the rules can be loosely interpreted and experimented with in the realm of creative fiction, and with beautiful results.

Works read in translation may not have the same effect as originally intended by the author, this we know, but I had no idea that the first Italian translation of George Orwell’s 1984 changed entirely the meaning of one of the best opening lines in contemporary fiction. But what’s an editor/translator to do when hampered by the limits of one’s native language?

Tim Parks is hopeful that literature is moving toward a global set of rules whereby writers of all languages approach a more level playing field. And playing fields always need referees.  🙂

It will be a world in which the need for an editor to mediate and clarify the position of the individual writer in relation to some hypothetical standard will be seriously challenged, but, in the general disorientation, all the more necessary. Indeed, it may well be that as the Internet era matures and more authors self-publish online without any editorial assistance, we will begin to grow nostalgic for those finicky copy editors who at least gave us something well defined to kick against.