Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#25)

In this recurring feature, we’re sharing tips for editors from the desk of Douglas Gibson. Good for those starting out or old hands who need a reminder, these guidelines form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.

Tip #25
A recent article in The Atlantic magazine discusses the pros and cons of unscripted dialogue in movies. The main advantage, the writer argues, is that the spur-of-the-moment conversations produced by the liberated actors “sound more real.”

Anyone who has spent much time reading faithfully transcribed examples of “real” conversations knows that in print the disadvantages of, you know, um, like I say, the, er . . .  kind of real stuff massively outweigh the advantages. So cut and polish that dialogue fearlessly, and you’ll have people talking the way they think they do.

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One comment on “Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#25)

  1. Leslie Nadon says:

    This really is a great tip, Douglas! Most people do not realize how their words and actions come across in writing. I have had the advantage of working with the news media, doing public relations for the cystic fibrosis foundation for 30 years as well as with my own radio talk show. The best thing I was taught was learning to use one word in place of ten to convey my point. In the broadcast industry, the best announcer or speaker does not dare to use um, well, and all the other points you brought out in your tip. Cut and polish is one of the best pieces of advice that you are giving us. Thank you.

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