Editor at Work: Why’d You Cut That?

By Jack Limpert

My wife Jean came back from grocery shopping this afternoon and while we were unpacking the bags she said “Whole Foods was packed.” She shops a lot at Whole Foods—she thinks much of the food there is better quality and healthier than at lower-cost supermarkets—but while unpacking the bags she often says something that makes clear she feels guilty about paying the higher prices.

Which reminded me of an edit I made about 10 years ago that created some internal discussion at The Washingtonian. Whole Foods then was fairly new to Washington and its natural food approach seemed popular with Washingtonian readers. I also knew that Whole Foods stores sold more newsstand copies of the magazine than the other supermarket chains.

A story came through and in it the writer joked that some of her friends shopped at Whole Foods but called it “Whole Paycheck.” I edited that out and a copy editor asked why. The newsstand sale numbers had crossed my mind but the main point of the edit was the old saying, “Never offend them with style when you can offend them with substance.”

For an editor it works this way: When I took out the “Whole Paycheck” line my mindset was I’m willing to offend Whole Foods or any other powerful person or company with substance but I’m going to think twice if it’s a writer just showing off and trying to be cute.

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