When to Stop Editing a Blog Post

· Salon Bloggers, Weblog Concepts

My brother the painter told me once about a guy who used to sneak into museums with a teeny brush and palette to touch up his own paintings. It’s hard to let go. I fixed a few typos in my entry yesterday that was getting a lot of flow from Scott Rosenberg and Dave Winer, but finally drew the line.
Still bugging me was my repetition of the phrase “trots out” twice in successive sentences. By the time I noticed it I did not want to trigger a trivial repost to my RSS feed (workaround? could the RSS spec contain a flag for reprint corrections vs. newly posted entries?) The line is in a different place for this medium from where it is when printinng on smashed trees.
I used to say that the greatest thing about publishing on the web was that you could make changes and corrections long after publishing something, but that this was also the most terrible thing about the web. A blessing and a curse, until you draw the line somewhere.
I know I could always preview before publishing, the way Matt Haughey’s deceptively brilliant interface makes commenters do, but somehow this goes against the path-of-least-resistance model that unleashes all this writing.
That thing about repeating phrases in slightly different contexts is so familiar, the way the forebrain seems to buffer recently touched or used words recalled from some deeper store of memory, proffering them repeatedly. Just as cliches and idioms suggest themselves and require pruning, this slightly autonomic repetition of a phrase is one of the easiest things to fix when proofreading or doing a light copyedit.
My brother the artist reminds me sometimes about all the little drawing “tricks” I taught him when we were children: the little symbols and culturally agreed-upon simplifications that say to the eye and mind: this is a real face, this is a real nose, this ear looks real, etc.
In some ways the traditions of print publishing are another set of traditions with a little voodoo mixed in. I always felt that when I was hired for my first editorial job (as an editorial assistant at a publishing house in the east bay in 1988) part of what landed me the job was my east-coast college education, often no big deal here in California but in this one type of job, there was an intangible preference for familiarity with old-fashioned, traditional, formal rules of writing. The same kinds of markers that in other contexts indicate fashion-sense, taste, style, and social class.
So polishing a weblog may bring a little old-school classiness to your image, but you have to draw the line somewhere. For some, what makes blogging work is that quality of being “in the moment.” For others, I’m sure, perfecting an image is paramount. I guess for me it’s somewhere in between.