Thoughts on Editing

I believe that:

Editing is a craft and it’s fun.

Any writing can use more editing. Done, best, perfect, and the only way to say it are fictions; useful but precarious fictions.

If you’re looking for a writer, you probably need an editor. Writing is rewriting.

Writers are also editors, if they’re doing it right. Awkward writers become more sensitive editors for other people, more sensitive editors become more graceful writers. Fiction writers edit their characters’ lives and retell what they’ve heard. Chaucer was an editor trying to help his diverse characters get out their stories, but also making sure they got back on that road to Canterbury the next morning. Shakespeare improved-by-retelling stories from the Plutarch that he read in grammar school.

Editing comes in types, levels, stages, and waves. Levels of Edit is a term of art first used by the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. Levels of editing can include, adding some of my phrasing:

  • Developmental Editing, to develop an idea and find authors
  • Line Editing, to get a draft done and into the publishing process
  • Copyediting, to re-craft sentences and paragraphs
  • Repair/Literary Editing, to fix paragraphs and structure
  • Continuity Editing, to make consistent with a point of view or software version
  • Technical Review/Fact-Checking, to enforce accuracy
  • Stylistic Editing, to speak and sound smoothly in line with the publisher’s voice
  • Proofreading, to correct typos and grammar

Any writing needs more editors, more eyeballs, more editing styles, more editing personas. Sometimes from a large crew, sometimes from the same person. The words “Editing by Committee” slander the under-used practice of people working together.

Copyediting is different from proofreading. Editors and people who want editors fix onto the proofreading, which is so obvious and so quick. But many documents really need the less obvious copyediting. Copyediting works more and larger miracles than are dreamt of in the average universe. Rebuild entire sentences from scratch, reverse the whole order of a piece of writing, say more directly what the author intended but tangled up in the saying.

Strunk and White were right. Pay attention to their book. Get the illustrated version, too.

People who say “wordsmithing” instead of “editing” should remember that editing covers more than hammer taps.

Book that helped me when I took the class of the same name: Technical Editing: The Practical Guide for Editors and Writers.

If you use WordPress, use After the Deadline (AtD) as a plugin (also in Jetpack). FTW, AtD just red-lined wordsmithing for me!

Editing is a craft and it’s fun.

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