Sunday, December 18, 2011

Writing as an Editor or Proof Reader

by Vivian Zabel 

          When editors or proof readers write an evaluation or suggestions for revisions in paragraph form, they are putting their writing "out there" to be observed and critiqued by others.

           What do I mean, you ask? Let me give an example. Let's say I've acted as an acquisition editor and have prepared an evaluation. If I write something like the next paragraph, what kind of impression am I going to leave on my supervisor, the author, or anyone else who reads what I wrote:

           I did like Running Backward trhough the Streets, but I found lots of misunderstood parts.  When characters talk, each one should have its own para. The time line should be consistent and plot should make sense.

          How could I make that a better paragraph? Let's see.
         I enjoyed reading Running Backward through the Streets, but some sections confused me. The wording and sentence structure caused misunderstanding. (give example of a confusing section and suggestion for revision) When different characters speak, paragraphs change. For example when John talks and perhaps a bit of action, one paragraph is required. Then when Mary speaks, a new paragraph begins. The time line and plot are not consistent, understandable, or in cohesive order.
          The acquisition editor who writes a sloppy evaluation causes the author to wonder if he or she wants to do business with a publisher who has staff members who cannot write coherently.

          A lead editor or proof reader who writes suggestions in paragraph format should also be as careful about his/her writing, making sure it is clear with extremely few, preferably no mechanical or grammatical problems. 

          Remember, we're putting our own writing on display when we write as an editor or proof reader. We don't want readers making snide remarks such as, "This person calls himself an editor? Ha! I can write as good as he can."

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  1. Good reminder. I often rush through my comments in Track Changes when I'm editing a manuscript. Although I'm not in acquisitions, I can see how a badly structured comment could also reflect negatively on a copy editor.

  2. Yes, we as editors at any level or as a proof reader need to "write" as well as we expect others to write.

  3. I especially liked how you changed "some sections confused me" from "I found lots of misunderstood parts." Misunderstood to who? Just you? Changing it the way you did makes it more obvious without being insulting.

  4. I try, when I edit, to help the author "see" problem areas and understand how they might make his/her work better. Some times I manage to succeed; other times I don't. *grin*

  5. I know when I get on a roll typing, my fingers can't keep up with my thoughts. I would hope that an editor would take the time to read over his/her material and correct it before sending it out. If something like that went out at the acquisitions stage, it would reflect badly on the publishing company. Not a good first impression.

  6. Well said. After all the time and effort a writer puts into the submission it makes a huge difference if the critique or edits are the best they can be in word and grammar. I have always found editors to be really helpful. But if I really believe something needs to stay as is I will pick my battle carefully and make my point with the same care the editor took to give me an opinion.

  7. Dear Vivian,
    I like the way you suggest that an editor give reasons for changes in a way that's clear.
    I think that this would be good when we critique another's work, too.

    Joan Y. Edwards

  8. We, as editors, are not trying to highjack anyone's work, but we're trying to help writers improve their own writings. We need to remember that whether doing a critique or a proof read or an evaluation or a full edit. We are to help, and to help we must be clear ourselves.

  9. Vivian, great reminder. I'm guilty of not writing full sentences in track changes - will certainly be more careful now.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

  10. It's hard to write in complete sentences when we track changes, but maybe we could be more careful when we write suggestions even in track changes.