Tagged: edit

The Compulsive Editor

Excerpt from The Elements of Editing: A Modern Guide for Editors and Journalists by Arthur Plotnik (Macmillan, 1982)

Signs of a Dysfunctional (Editor-Related) Compulsiveness

  • Holding to favorite rules of usage, whatever the effect on communication
  • Musing for fifteen minutes on whether to use a hairline or one-point rule
  • Changing every passive construction to an active one
  • Concentrating on negative rather than positive space in layout

Signs of Functional (Reader-Oriented) Compulsiveness

  • Following up
  • Rewriting every headline that fails to motivate readership
  • Quadruple-checking of page proofs
  • Staring at type specifications a full ten seconds
  • Reading every word in its final context
  • As soon as one issue is put to bed, insisting that work begin on the next

Quotes on Editing

Quotes from Leslie T. Sharpe and Irene Gunther in Editing Fact and Fiction (Cambridge University Press, 1994)

“Editors can do harm primarily in two ways: when they alter an author’s individual style–her voice–or when they change the content or meaning of her prose. Doing no harm when editing a manuscript means doing the minimum necessary to clarify an author’s language or intent.”

“New editors, anxious to prove to their superiors that they have mastered the minutiae of grammar and usage, tend to overedit. But so, at times, do experienced editors, perhaps in an effort to validate the importance of their own function, or simply out of a failure to grasp what a writer is trying to accomplish.”

“Gratuitous editing and unnecessary rewriting are the most common complaints writers make about editors. And justifiably so. The editor’s job is to allow the author’s voice to emerge without coloring it, or replacing it with her own. An editor who wants to write should be a writer.”

“Editors are seen as the arbiters of taste, style, and usage, but good editors cannot be arbitrary. They must be flexible. Essentially what this means is that they listen: They never fail to take into account an author’s feelings.”