Editing 101: What to Do When the Writer Tries to Gross Out the Reader

Tom Boswell, the great Washington Post sports columnist, greeted Washington Nationals baseball fans this morning, 12 hours after an exciting win over the Chicago Cubs, with a column about the Nats improved relief pitching: “When the Nationals’ bullpen door opened Sunday at Wrigley Field, the accustomed assortment of ghouls, goblins, zombies and floating gobs of ectoplasm that Washington baseball fans have come to regard as normal this season did not appear.”

He went on to describe the Nats bullpen before the recent acquisition of three relievers: “The psychomagnotheric slime that has infected the worst-on-earth Nats bullpen all season, slathering everybody with icky late-inning nightmares, appears to have been sent back to another dimension.”

Then more about slime: “Each failure brought depression and anxiety that contaminated the whole group’s mood. Then the psycho slime—some would call it the team’s mood and momentum of a baseball season—was free to do its worst.

“That pinky-purply goop can also animate inanimate objects. . .”

“The slime has been busted.”

And the last line of the column: “Watch out, slime.”
At the Washingtonian, I tried to avoid inflicting vomiting, farting, or other bodily functions on the reader unless it was crucial to the story, which it almost never was. Usually it was the writer thinking some shock value would add life and controversy to an otherwise dull story.

All that slime and gobs of ectoplasm from Boswell on a Monday morning? Even the great ones sometimes need an editor.
Psychomagnotheric slime? According to the Evil Wiki, psychomagnotheric slime is a powerful psycho-reactive substance that plays a major antagonistic role in  the movie Ghostbusters.


  1. Peter Harkness says

    My reaction exactly. Way too much.

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