Copyediting question--
November 9, 2021 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Hi folks. I don't even know how to Google the question I have, but here it is. My sentence is, "The next step is helping these students really analyze with their own minds." Well, they don't each have minds, plural, nor do they all have one collective mind (at least that's not meant). So what do I go with, "minds" or "mind"? I'm editing this sentence. It's a direct quote, so rewriting it isn't in the works. Thx.
posted by noelpratt2nd to Writing & Language (13 answers total)
 
Best answer: "Their minds" is correct.

(FWIW: I have been a professional editor for over 15 years.)
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2021 [11 favorites]


"Minds" is fine. They have their respective minds.

"Really" is a flabby filler word.

More broadly, "their own minds" is not clear. Whose minds would or could they use? What are they using for their analysis now, if not their own minds?
posted by JimN2TAW at 11:32 AM on November 9, 2021 [6 favorites]


Artifice_Eternity has it. (I'm a professional copy editor.)

Please note OP says sentence is a quote and therefore can't be rewritten.
posted by FencingGal at 11:53 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: They each have a mind, so collectively they have minds. You could add “respective” to make “their respective minds” if it still feels unclear.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:53 AM on November 9, 2021


I don't know if you have this discretion, but the sentence would be stronger if you leave out "with their own minds" entirely. They are going to analyze -- and not like they are going to use their feet for it.
posted by sonofsnark at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


The next step is helping these students really analyze with their own minds.

The "really" isn't doing you any favors here. Also, analyze what? I think perhaps the really is there because analyze is hanging without an object. Along with other suggestions, I might remove "really" and perhaps add an object:

The next step is helping these students analyze (the information/results/process) with their own minds.
The next step is helping these students analyze (the information/results/process) with their respective minds.


Or, sometimes if a sentence isn't work, I like to reorganize it a bit to see if that sounds any better.

For the next step, we should facilitate students' own individual analyses of the (information/results/process).
posted by bluedaisy at 12:30 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


Professional editor here. Yes, "minds" is fine.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:33 PM on November 9, 2021


OP said that it's a quote. If possible, when something's badly phrased, I leave the quote out and paraphrase. I don't know what the context is, but in my work, rewriting quotes isn't okay.
posted by pinochiette at 12:35 PM on November 9, 2021 [7 favorites]


If you cut "own" and are left with "The next step is helping these students analyze with their minds", then you may as well cut "with their minds" also, since what else are they going to be analyzing with?

I don't think that "their own minds" is unclear at all, though. What confusion could this possibly engender? I think that "with their own minds" is a sort of intensifier, pushing the point that the goal is to get the students to think for themselves.
posted by thelonius at 1:11 PM on November 9, 2021 [4 favorites]


This quote makes the speaker sound a bit unsophisticated, because it actually doesn’t make a ton of sense (analyze what? who else’s mind? what else but the mind? why “really”?, etc)

So... if you are quoting this person in a positive light, say, to hold them up as an expert, or to promote their work, it doesn’t make them look great. If you have other choices of quotes to choose from, personally I would say, discard this one; it’s not really salvageable.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:57 PM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


When in doubt, recast the sentence. "To help each student analyze in his own mind."
posted by SemiSalt at 5:09 AM on November 10, 2021


Original: "The next step is helping these students really analyze with their own minds."
Rephrase: "The next step is helping these students really analyze (the situation / the information / the outcome)."
Choose the rewording that fits the context.

Can you reinterview the speaker and get clarification? If not, then paraphrase.
If this is a press release created by the speaker, then leave it as is and edit for space in your publication. This quote has already been proofread according to the speaker's wishes.
If this is a quote from other sources, then leave it as is or paraphrase. If it is a quote from a video, then indicate in your article that the source is from a taped interview.
I agree that "really analyze" is casual speech. It adds color to the quote. Inclusion depends on your audience.
If you are second-guessing the quote, then so will some members of your audience. Paraphrase for clarity.
posted by TrishaU at 8:33 AM on November 10, 2021


"analyze" is crying out for an object, but maybe that's clear from the surrounding sentences. whatever you do, don't pump hot air into "help" to blow it up into "facilitate" or similar changes.

of course you won't anyway, with or without advice to, because you said so clearly that "improving" the sentence isn't an option as it is a direct quote.

however, since you did say that, you couldn't edit "minds" to "mind" even if it were incorrect (and it's not, "minds" is right) because you can't adjust what the speaker said to the extent of actually changing a word. unless you didn't hear it clearly and are asking for transcription help rather than editing help.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:22 PM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


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