And here is the quite brilliant response from sub-editors Mia Aimaro Ogden and
Joanna Duckworth ...
Sub-editing is a noble profession. It is also a thankless one - particularly when your writers call you a "useless cunt".
There was a sharp intake of breath when your e-mail hit the inbox of subs throughout the industry this week - that was after we'd stopped laughing. Not that we didn't think you had a point. Yes, tinkering with copy just for the sake of it and without consultation is wrong. It is disrespectful and arrogant. And we can see why you'd be furious at the loss even of an indefinite article.
There is nothing more irritating than a sub-editor who thinks they know better than a writer, particularly one who cares deeply about his work. But did you really have to be so rude?
Laura Barton stated in Friday's Guardian that there's "something of a long-standing tension between writers and sub-editors". Do you wonder why? Contrary to your belief, we don't "believe we know best when we know fuck all".
If you could only see the state of some of the raw copy we have to knock into shape. It's badly structured, poorly spelt, appallingly punctuated, lazily researched. We're not saying your writing falls into that category - on the contrary, your journalism is highly accomplished. Never having worked on your copy, we can only take your word for it that it is beyond improvement in its pre-published state. Strange as it may seem, many writers do not possess your grasp of language; indeed it is sometimes difficult to believe that English is their mother tongue, and they don't give a damn about what they produce because they know that a good, often highly educated sub-editor will correct it, check it and turn it into readable prose.
None of this, however, can excuse your nasty, bullying, "know your place, you insignificant little fuckwit" e-mail. Yes, it's funny, in a way that pieces that use "fuck", "shit" and "cunt" so liberally often can be, but, please - someone made a mistake. They surely had no intention of sabotaging your deathless prose. So you don't like what happened to your piece - have a word with your editor. The hapless sub will no doubt already have been soundly thrashed and had their dictionary privileges removed.
Some years ago, a colleague of ours had a T-shirt printed up with the legend "xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx is a cunt" on the front, which he wore every week when having to deal with the writer to whom it referred, because he, like you, became so disproportionately abusive when his use of language was questioned. We'd hate that to happen to you, because you can actually write, and having "Giles Coren is a sanctimonious little twat who needs to get over himself" could be quite costly in T-shirt lettering. Subs are no more infallible than writers. So, let's all try a little mutual respect, shall we?
All the best,
Mia Aimaro Ogden
Senior sub-editors, The Sunday Times