Or, what’s in a name? (Credit to Will S)
Because if you try and differentiate between the so-called different types of editor you need, you will end up with an infarct, of the myocardium.
An aside, when I was discussing heart attacks – as lay people call an MI – with a clinical colleague, I asked him why it was called a myocardial infarction. ‘Because it’s an infarct of the myocardium,’ he said, puzzled at my stupidity.
But not everyone walks around talking about infarcts and the myocardium. Most of us still talk about heart attacks.
Just as most of us talk about editors, not line editors, or copy editors, or content/developmental/ structural editors. And editors are different to proofreaders. Or are they?
And you certainly can’t do more than one of these jobs. Or maybe you can. One site I read said that copy and line editing was closely aligned (nice play on words there? – mine not theirs) and that some editors do both.
What’s the difference? Depends what you read. Some people put a copy edit before a line edit, others reverse it. Some people consider that editors proof as they go (I do) while they edit at the same time. Others consider a final proofreader is essential after an editor has finished faffing around.
The only real difference is in the degree of editing.
I’ll make an exception for proofing and give an example in the following story.
Some years ago, working in a large organisation, we were writing a book for the public. One of our senior members was put in charge of this. After all, she had an MBA.
Did that mean she could write coherently in plain English? I couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been given to me. Except, I’d only joined recently and was merely good enough to write press releases, answer media enquiries and deal with a few MPs. Easy work. The sort of thing that gave you bad publicity when you got it wrong and cost jobs. Not difficult work like writing a document for public consultation about closing a hospital.
Occasionally I was invited to the editorial group meetings. There wasn’t really much to say. This is crap, didn’t sound like it would be appreciated.
After weeks or months of perpetuating this tortuous management speak, the draft went before the board. Yet again. One enlightened board member said, ‘We need a journalist to write this’.
My chief exec said, ‘We have one’. Board member looked slightly embarrassed. Then, I was asked what I could do with it. We were running out of time for publication. I said I would meet the deadline for publication but I wanted total commitment and time (and control but that was implicit) from the chief exec and the director of public health in that timescale. I got it.
We spent days locked in the chief exec’s office as I went through everything, line by line. Line editing huh? We were there into the night, living on pizza, no not on expenses, out of our pockets, whingey taxpayers please shut up, nor did anyone get paid overtime. I took my secretary home after midnight on many occasions. At one point, we ended up working at the chief exec’s home.
The original ‘project manager’ – on more money than me – had disappeared. She couldn’t add any value. What I needed to turn the book round, was the political and clinical input, instead of loads of messing about. I needed those two people to get it right.
We did it of course. I met the deadline. Except…
I’d requested an external proofreader. The only one I could trust to pick up anything I had missed. Any errors and she would notice them. All was going well.
We took the draft to the board, the day before publication. ‘Shouldn’t radiology read radiotherapy?’ asked one board member.
Nooooo! I’d looked at this before and puzzled over it. It was a tiny comment at the bottom of a table, saying radiology would remain at the hospital destined for down-sizing (aka eventual closure).
At that point my clinical knowledge was basic. I figured if our DPH had approved the doc, not mine to question the expertise. Except… it is. Even experts get it wrong and miss things. I thought radiology ie X-rays happened at all hospitals so why was the comment made about radiology remaining? It didn’t make sense. But, radiotherapy did. Radiotherapy means linacs and seriously protected bunkers. A much bigger issue.
I didn’t question it, even though it niggled me. I should have done. We had a rush job done that literally covered over the offending word and changed it to radiotherapy. We needed to send out copies to the press and important people. The rest of the print run was ditched and a new one was done. All for one word. I hadn’t wanted to look like an idiot for asking about something out of my remit.
Neither my proofing, nor my colleague’s had flagged that. Why? Because radiology was spelt correctly. It’s not a proofer’s job to question word use, merely to check for accuracy.
A few years later, when I was in charge of cancer services, of course I would have pulled it.
So now, I challenge everything that doesn’t make sense.
And, that’s really what an editor should do. Simple as that. Your proofreader will check your copy closely, but if your choice of words is wrong… not up to them to say anything. That is the big difference between proofing and editing. Some editors proof, but proofreaders don’t edit.
My document was the first provincial (ie outside London) hospital closure consultation. It was used as a template by others, my health service PR friends thanked me. We received no national publicity, ie no negative national publicity. The only ones who criticised the document were a couple of medics who nitpicked over a graph. Hey, who cares?
End of story
But onto other editing issues. I am sure this will get up people’s nose.
Describing yourself as roughseas, author is just so not on. Or writer. Or any other tag you choose to use. Do you really, really need to say that? Ask yourself why? Because the blunt truth is, that you don’t sell enough books, and you want to tell the world you write books and you *think* you are an author.
It makes you look like an amateur. You might as well write, roughseas, tall, or roughseas, likes dogs. There just is no need. So go back to your blog, and remove your writer/author addition. It does you no favours. People can read your about page or your sidebar.
A browse around found a few of my faves.
Edicts by editors, basically.
‘Show not tell’ and ‘no adverbs’ are currently a la mode. I quite like adverbs. I also like some passive and descriptive tense. Where would Henry James or Joseph Conrad be without them?
But, I do agree that writers should not overuse distinctive words. Ironically, I found a site defending one of my bugbears. Chuckled. Whether you like it or not, chuckle is distinctive. It just jars. ‘He chuckled’.
It is a terrible word. Don’t use it more than once, and, in terms of what not to use more than once, add, ‘He chortled’. Interesting sexist point. Women rarely chuckle or chortle. Only men.
I hold my hand up and confess I have suggested to more than one writer, that they have chuckled once too much in their books.
On the other side of the coin, said is getting a resurgence in fiction.
‘Said’ is basic journalism. It is a standard rule. No replies, retorts, queries, questions, answers. Just s/he said. I learned that very quickly. Day one probably.
Fiction is different. No need to have every dialogue ‘saying’ something. Sometimes a different response is appropriate.
Do watch out for distinctive words. Don’t get bogged down by trends.
‘No need,’ she said.