In May 1993, I published a book review of Richard Posner's Sex and Reason. The review was modest in length and in purpose, part of an informal division of labor undertaken by the many critics of Sex and Reason. It challenged Judge Posner's claim that an economic analysis of sex was something new and argued that women have been making rational choices with regard to sex and reproduction for quite a long time, something that Judge Posner's book seemed to miss and misunderstand throughout.
Readers of the review (the members of my MCI Friends and Family Plan) have since sent me little notes of praise; that is all to the good. What is not to the good is that the review that was published was not wholly the review I wrote or would have preferred. As satisfactory as the published piece may have been, its tone and content differed from its earlier incarnation in ways that made it less engaging and less effective. The metamorphosis was the result of law review editing.
We are all familiar with the process. At its best, law review editing, like editing elsewhere in the academic and literary worlds, results in a piece improved in style, structure, and content. Too often, however, law review articles are not so much improved as simply changed, sometimes hundreds of times within a single manuscript.
My purpose here is not to complain line by line about various dissatisfactions with the editing of my little review. I accept that authors, like teenagers convinced the world is focused on their every imperfection, are more aware of perceived deficiencies in an article than any reader is likely to be. Nonetheless, many of us have spent many hours resuscitating sentences, paragraphs, lines of argument, and sometimes whole manuscripts that have been edited nearly to death. What I want to discuss is why this sort of thing happens so regularly and what we might do about it.
Geo. L. J.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/950