- By Robert Starr
- Published 06/12/2008
There are different answers as to why we edit because there are always different people doing the job, and that’s why editing means different things to different people. Students will have a slightly different idea about what it means to edit than the office worker will, and although they will be looking for some of the same things in the grammar and spelling, there’s variation in what they will want from the content once the edit is complete. The editor of a newspaper is responsible for different things than the people who produce and edit newsletters for the organizations that they belong to, and with the advent of Internet technology there are even places where an editor will be asked to work photographs in as well as illustrations and cartoons. Still, there are some features that are common to all types of editing as well as to those people who call themselves editors. To that end, there are several common reasons why people find it necessary to edit the words that they create.
One of the first reasons we edit mirrors our efforts in life itself since no matter how hard we try, it’s very unlikely that a first draft of anything that we write or do will be perfect. Often after we’ve finished something
we find that the tone or mood of the piece is not what we intended and there are quite often errors in the manuscript that we don’t see as we’ve grown too close to the work. As well, there’s usually always room to make the thing shorter. The times are few and far between that we can’t find a place to tweak a passage here or there or shorten up a passage to heighten both the impact and meaning. Some documents need a little extra spark to entice the readers to keep on reading and that’s another point where the impartial eye of the editor comes into play. There have not been many manuscripts written that haven’t been improved by a little nip and tuck to fashion the words into something a little more direct and in accordance with what the author originally intended. Remember it’s always best to be as concise as possible.
Like the people who do the work, the changes that editors make can be varied. Some light copyedits really just target the punctuation and grammar and for these people the job is just about tidying up the text to make sure all is accurate and clear. Other editors are left with the job of taking longer more complex works and cutting words and phrases so that the finished product is shorter and easier to read. Many of these edits come dangerously close to falling under the category of rewrites.
Robert Starr is a professional writer/editor with several published books and a degree in journalism. He’s brought 20 years of experience in the craft to his own on line writing/editing service. You can reach him at robstarr.org
by Robert Starr