Leaving Only Theists'
I bring up a question hesitantly because I believe your intentions are good, your record of honesty is exemplary, and because I benefit from your copyediting by appearing to readers to be a better writer than perhaps I am. Wow, this is difficult. I've sat here for ten minutes debating with myself about asking this. I have to. Is it entirely fair and honest to correct my letters, and possibly those of other atheist contributors', if you don't do the same for theists? This is entirely an assumption on my part, and I am not referring to the tirades you post (rightly in my mind) in preformatted text as examples of bigotry. You may very well correct small errors you find in average theist letters before you post them. If you say you do, I believe you. It may also be that it is not comparable. Some of the theists who write in make a great many mistakes in their letters. Correcting them all would not only be time consuming, but it may very well require altering the tone or even the meaning of the letters. Theists are also likely to take the correction(s) as a slight, where atheists would probably not. Another consideration is that your target audience is atheists. However, this can lead down some very slippery slopes.
You have stated your commitment to truthfulness many times and so I think this is a question worthy of consideration.
-- Carey Sherrill
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Carey Sherrill"
Subject: Re: My own rope
Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2001 7:13 PM
I correct most letters. This is why I get so much further behind on this aspect than I would if I didn't work long hours making most of these things, theist and atheist alike, at least readable. (One would think people would be more careful with material they are submitting to a publication, especially owing to just how many so-called alternative organs print what you write verbatim, "sic" notations and all!)
Usually, the only ones I don't correct are the ones that both are arrogant and which denounce me for being stupid or uneducated, etc. In most cases, you gotta have both to go in entirely uncorrected. To display the atrocious writing of a pompous ass is an editorial statement in itself.
Occasionally, an atheist or a polite person will write a letter that would take far too much work to correct, but is still readable as is. Other times, to try to correct it would be to significantly change what it's saying simply because I can't tell for sure what the writer means, exactly.
Most letters are actually pretty good, and I'll just leave a letter alone because it's fine for my purposes. Usually I will at least run it through the spell checker and capitalize words such as Christian and Bible and the like and change all the dashes so that they look like -- this.
It is proper to correct letters to the editor, and even to edit them for content. I don't change the content. (There's one exception: offensive epithets. I will change "fundie" to "fundamentalist" and "xian" to "Christian." I have done this to a lot of letters from atheists! To me, this language is sheer bigotry: it's entirely unnecessary, so I try to keep it off my website.) I will also delete personal notes at the beginning of a letter.
For the most part, I judge letters on a pass-fail basis; it is not my self-defined role to rewrite the content of these things; but as an editor, it is my prerogative.
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