This one is an extremely common usage, and too often overlooked by editors too.

The liberal minimalist approach is exemplified by the Canadian political philosopher, Joseph Carens.

changed to

The liberal minimalist approach is exemplified by the Canadian political philosopher Joseph Carens.

If there is only one Canadian political philosopher to date, the apposition marked by comma is right. But there can’t be and there is not one. Delete the comma, fast, fast! This is a too common mistake by authors and one that sometimes could lead to an unintended different sense to a reader.

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… the liberal communitarian is inconsistent. If we ought to focus on the community which holds the strongest moral value for the individual, why suppose this to be the nation state or even the nation?

changed to

… the liberal communitarian is inconsistent. If we ought to focus on the community as holding the strongest moral value for the individual, why suppose this to be the nation state or even the nation?

I do not prefer to leave “which” in non-restricted sense. But a closer look immediately reveals to us that the concern here is with the focus on a community when a community is being held as the entity to which an individual owes strongest moral duties [as opposed to humanity]. So there is a restriction (and so of course we cannot put a coma before “which”), but not on the community: hence replacing “which” with “that” would change the meaning altogether. “that” would lead one to think that we are talking of different types of communities and it is the community holding the strongest moral value we ought to focus upon and not other communities. But we want to say here any community but within the hypothesis that it holds the strongest moral value. In fact, that’s why the argument contained in the last phrase comes about: if we ought to focus on community in such and such a case, then why only nation state? Why not any? The hidden “any” in the first phrase comes out thus in the form of a question, which was all along self-evident, in the latter phrase.

Some regions were more vulnerable to state action than others. This was certainly the case for Georgia’s ethnic regions, which, at the collapse of the Soviet Union, lost a protector in Moscow.

changed to

Some regions were more vulnerable to state action than others. This was certainly the case for Georgia’s ethnic regions, which, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, lost a protector in Moscow.

Certainly, the loss of patronage from the USSR occurred “at” its disintegration. But the loss was not an independent event, not a coincidence, but caused due to the main event. And this loss was permanent, continuing till present history.

I am not suggesting here to blow up and dismantle the whole peer review system dead and buried, but the mentality that if something’s been published, better in prestigious journals, it’s something news-worthy at the zero end of the spectrum and something to turn the whole research direction into new grounds at the far zero end of the spectrum.

To start with the whole intent of the process, it happens just because you have an intermediate being called the editor of a journal, who is mostly a half-baked being, even if very well cooked. Read the rest of this entry »

The recent Scott Reuben fraud (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-medical-madoff-anesthestesiologist-faked-data) started me on this. A problem lies also outside of the immediate medical framework: the publishing world. The whole process of “acquisitions editor” and “development editor”—people with half-baked knowledge mostly—who run the show. The show might indeed be very profitable for the publishing companies themselves, but the deplorable fact remains that publishing has not even remained market-oriented but has become self-generating, self-consuming.

Market does not mean “library” to me: where you have taken the university representative in your pocket Read the rest of this entry »

There are these two sentences from a book on C. S. Lewis:

There is in recent centuries an expanding technical tradition and logic whereby the individual gives significant ground to the group as an outcome of an aggregation procedure. In today’s world, no less than in Lewis’s, the collective is thought to have greater weight and value than the individual, where the collective, not the individual, is thought pivotal to social progress.

There are three things to think about.

(1) Should I change “gives” to “concedes”, since that is more the sense here? But “concedes” also anticipates the book, the arguments to come, by a little bit: it is as if you were deploring already the rising importance of collective over individual. So I decide to leave “gives” as “gives.”

(2) Where is the stress of the author, what is his/her point? The individual gives ground to the group as the main thing, and how the group happens as secondary? In which case “an outcome” is fine. Or is the method–the “aggregation procedure”–important? Also place it in the perspective of the sentence opening, “an expanding technical tradition….” The method seems to be important, more so since already the required tragic emphasis on collective’s higher weight is being supplied by the second sentence. And so I will change “an outcome” to “the outcome.”

(3) The “where” is simply confusing. We already know that we are talking about today’s world and Lewis’s world, and that is where the action is situated. Change “where” to “and” so that the reader can flow on smoothly without creasing his brows too much.

The final changes look like these:

There is in recent centuries an expanding technical tradition and logic whereby the individual gives significant ground to the group as the outcome of an aggregation procedure. In today’s world, no less than in Lewis’s, the collective is thought to have greater weight and value than the individual, and the collective, not the individual, is thought pivotal to social progress.

Two subjects in two clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction are best separated by a comma most times:

Not surprisingly, the war had a profoundly negative impact on agricultural output and the peasantry lived in virtual poverty during the war years.

changed to

Not surprisingly, the war had a profoundly negative impact on agricultural output, and the peasantry lived in virtual poverty during the war years.

Clarity is everything. Good that you understood. Good that the grammar and vocabulary used by the author are fine. But think of the poor readers. They may not be as well read as you. And, most importantly, the first and really the only rule of thumb while editing is that, the text should be such that a trained eye, a good reader does not have to go back to gather the sense: the flow should be swift and unimpeded.

 

In the case below, I prefer since though most others go for because. Many people associate “since” only with the sense of “depuis“, that is, they take it only in a temporal sense, hence the latter preference. For me, one of my idiosyncrasies as every editor should have, “because” is more like you are avowing something, confessing something, making a clean breast of something.

 

In the case of the 1946-47 Soviet famine, one must start by tracing the roots of the poor 1946 harvest, for subsequent government actions … were … a reaction to poor harvest yields and the resulting scarcity of grain.

 

changed to

 

In the case of the 1946-47 Soviet famine, one must start by tracing the roots of the poor 1946 harvest, since/because subsequent government actions … were … a reaction to poor harvest yields and the resulting scarcity of grain.

Go deeper in the context; don’t just leave what is grammatically fine. Get to the sense of the author:

 

Tauger stresses the role of environmental factors and goes as far as to question the exploitative nature of the Soviet collectivization of agriculture.

 

changed to

 

Tauger stresses the role of environmental factors and goes so far as to question the exploitative nature of the Soviet collectivization of agriculture.

In a book dealing with post-9/11 situation: “The planes colliding with buildings and collapsing skyscrapers were sensed more than cognized, felt more than intellectualized.”

This gives the impression that the planes collided with (a) buildings and (b) collapsing skyscrapers. Now, we know what the author means. The planes collided with the buildings and hence the skyscrapers collided. Hence,

changed to

“The planes colliding with buildings and the collapsing skyscrapers were sensed more than cognized, felt more than intellectualized.”