On Editing

There are many subjects that at first glance seem more interesting than editing. I can think of swearwords, the Mustang P51. Additionally the excess of repeating management books and why metal of all music genres deserves more recognition seem much more interesting topics. Yet I dedicate this essay to editing as today I encountered a clueless editor. As a business student there are always two aspects of writing reports that undo all your efforts at once: bad source material and bad editing.

One of my hobbies is reading. A well written article, essay or any given text can be a pleasure to read regardless of length or vocabulary. Anyone who can explain the origins of the paper-clip without giving me the feeling I am reading an instruction manual has my attention. That brings me to the first aspect of a well edited text. A well edited text always seems well edited for its purpose.

A good example of a well edited text is the script of a stage play. A stage play is written to follow the phases in a story that are vital for the audience to understand. It can be a comedy, drama or tragedy or any given variant on the three. There is always a structure that leads the audience as the stage play is acted out to coherently or intentionally incoherently convey the concept of the stage play.

From coherence to content, the choice of words is a delicate matter. When writing a text for a given purpose to any given reader a word put in the wrong place can undo any connection there was with the reader initially. Some words and even expressions are even considered undesired or rude. Editors for all kinds of printed media bend their minds over this matter of words.

The accurate use of grammar is of course a requirement. A text with too many mistakes can lead to an annoying or even unreadable text. The use of chat language found in mobile chat conversations and on-line chat rooms leads to very strange expressions on paper. Additionally any letter or publication for professional or academic use that contains grammar mistakes can be rejected on the grounds of incorrect grammar. Grammar is an editor’s concern.

My personal favourite in all of these is seemingly the simplest one. I refer to making sense. Whenever I read a text and something seems odd besides the fact that it is well edited, coherent, well formulated and grammatically correct I ask one question: “What I am reading now, does it make sense?” When I do that I imagine the police constable against silliness to make a Pythonesque entrance.

Making sense is a typically British expression. It only makes sense when you understand how silly it actually is to make small mistakes. A simple mistake is to assume a sound wave is audible and to confirm that assumption without actually checking the Hertz range of the waves. Anyone can claim to hear a lot but below twenty Hertz special headphones are required and above twenty kilo Hertz one would have to be an infant in most cases. Making sense entails all of the above-mentioned and combining all that with the written assumption followed by the right outcome or consequence.

The real point I am trying to make is a simple one. Editing is a process in which one or more editors make a text work for its intended purpose. It is one of the most important skills in any program or profession where written publications are an important medium. Making a text work is only learned by much reading and writing. Every time I meet an editor who just puts texts together I dread the outcome.

39 comments

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    1. Thanks I will keep that in mind.

      If you want more insights into editing, just read and write. This early post was followed up by the essay “The Creative Process of Editing”. I have learned many things from Montaigne’s essays and Charles Bukowski’s writing style.

      In case you are into more poetic language, read and try haiku poetry. When you can tell stories with 17 syllables you can create linguistic art.

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    1. Thank you. Regarding the first question, as long as the English is readable and not advertising I do count in brain dead people as a factor. I did not know internet zombies existed by the way.

      Regarding the second question, this blog is not yet linked to Facebook or other social media. That is a later decision. For now I stick to this blog for what I want to share. A post dedicated to websites I frequently read and like is on the short list.

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    1. Regarding writing and editing, style guides from higher education books are quite good. There are PDFs floating on the internet that address many related topics.

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      If your question regards editing of some sorts, check style guides for all kinds of documents and works.

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    1. Thank you for your feedback.

      Trust what you trust. Agree or disagree where such is to your preference. There are “short reads” and “Essays & Articles”. If I were to expand on some topics in the “short reads” a single post could take an entire day at least, think of research, draft versions, edit after edit and proofread after proofread.

      In case you want to send me suggestions for “Essays & Articles” please e-mail me. There is also a Facebook page under the name “Radjah’s 2 Cents” where you can leave feedback.

      My regards.

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