Sunday, September 07, 2008

Talk to the (upcoming) editors

The new semester is well and truly upon us, so it's time for some annual fall festivities, and everybody's invited. Here's the game:

You're about to address an undergraduate editing class (OK, two undergraduate editing classes). You can give them one piece of advice.* What is it?

"Everybody's invited," of course, means exactly that: Usual Suspects, regulars who have your own mugs behind the bar, occasional visitors, drop-ins, first-timers -- everybody but the spam crowd. Some of you will be hiring these students. Some of you will be working next to them. Some are teaching their counterparts. Some are their counterparts. Some are recent pros who have discovered all the stuff we forgot to teach. Some have left the trade but still cringe in predictable ways when you open the paper. Some wonder why science looks the way it does in news accounts. Some wonder why the observable world in general looks the way it does in newspapers. Regardless, please hie yourself to the comments and talk to the editors of the future.

* Sure, you can make it a suggestion. You can even make it a question if it works.


Blogger Luke Morris said...

Being a student I don't think I'm eligible to answer, but I will put money on someone suggesting "take design next semester."

BTW I am now.

1:23 AM, September 08, 2008  
Blogger John said...

Everybody is subject to editing.

That includes the intern, the star, the executive editor and the publisher. Because everyone is prone to error: errors of fact; errors of grammar, syntax and usage; errors of judgment; lapses in taste. The writer who publishes without an editor is like an aerialist working without a net; sooner or later, everyone falls.

The corollary to that is that the editor has to have both knowledge and judgment. Has to know grammar, syntax and usage inside-out. Has to know which authorities on language to consult and how to resolve conflicting views. Has to approach the writer with respect and tact. Has to be right more often than wrong.

John McIntyre

10:53 AM, September 08, 2008  
Blogger Doug Fisher said...

Use the common sense God gave you - and don't check the BS detector at the door.

12:39 PM, September 08, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The relationship's not adversarial. I remind myself of this constantly, with gritted teeth admittedly, when dealing with the editors of my scientific manuscripts. The process is frustrating, the comments are infuriating, but the post-editing paper is somehow always better than the pre-editing one, and that's the point of the whole exercise. If everyone involved keeps their eyes on that point, it all works.

Mary Kuhner

6:03 PM, September 09, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My overarching rule as a copy editor, adopted from Phillip Blanchard (I think): "Read for meaning." Everything else follows once you understand that.

9:43 PM, September 09, 2008  
Blogger Niko Dugan said...

I'm late to the game on this, but:

1) The two most important acronyms in copy editing: RTFS and DTFM. Always.

2) Use "said." Use it almost always. If it's important enough to put in quotes, it ought not to matter in what specific way it was uttered.

3) Question everything. Don't quit until you're satisfied. And "the guy who writes this is a friend of mine, and he has an English degree, and he says it's right" shouldn't satisfy you.

7:21 PM, October 04, 2008  

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