• Mark Meier

Edit, Then Edit, Then Edit Again

By J. S. Watts

This is a post in praise of editing and editors. I’ll admit to undertaking editing work myself, but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this post as a writer and a reader, not an editor, and because editing is an essential part of sharing the written word with others. As a writer I really, really appreciate those who edit my work for me. I also recognise the need to edit my own work as thoroughly as possible when professional editors have not got my back (and even when they have). I want to submit my work for publication in the best form I can manage. One of the weaknesses I often see in writers just starting out is not editing their own work robustly, or at all. Most writers are, I suspect, a little fearful of editors. Our words are carved from our tender psyches and it’s scary having someone else play around with them. It can also be an ego-bruising experience. Having someone point out your mistakes and in effect suggest that your painfully perfected words aren’t so perfect after all is not what we writers want. As a writer, however, I recognise that a skilled and sympathetic editor (step forward those wonderful people who have edited my novels and and nurtured my poetry) can smooth out the wrinkles in my words I hadn’t known were there, as well as sweep away those annoying typos to which I had grown word blind. Editing is an essential and acknowledged element of publishing. It is an equally important, but sometimes overlooked, part of personal word sharing. Here, I am thinking of emails, texts, online blogs, website content, Facebook posts and other social networking shares. These are the times when the only people checking my words before they splatter across the ether are me, myself and I. Unfortunately, there appears to be a growing trend in the online community of seeing electronic and web-shared words as somehow less important than formally printed ones. Electronic words are transitory and don’t require meticulous checking and editing. Wrong. If you care about your words, you need to edit your words wherever they appear, you really do. I’ll openly admit to my own guilt in this regard. I hate to think of the number of times I’ve pressed send on an email, or post on a Facebook page, only to see, after the event, a typo glaring back at me, metaphorically sticking out its tongue and yodeling nah, nah, ne, nah, nah! There has followed much frantic backtracking, editing and re-posting in order to save face. Typos don’t look professional. I’m a writer. What I post online, however inconsequential and fleeting, reflects on me. I am supposed to be skilled in the use of words. Typos and grammatical bloopers shriek otherwise. Gone are the days when the odd imperfection in a handwritten letter to a friend seemed sweetly quirky. A howler in the briefest of Facebook posts, let alone a full size blog post, can be seen by hundreds of people around the globe. In seconds! Errors can confuse and do not create a good impression. Being blunt, I have chosen not to submit my work to certain magazines because their website content is sloppy and ungrammatical. If they can’t edit their website properly, what are they going to do to my words? As a reviewer of books, I am unlikely to accept work for review if the accompanying email seems barely in control of the English language and, if you are going to spam me, please do not expect me to invest in your promotional, editing, publication or general book services if the words you use to introduce yourself to me are not polished and linguistically accurate. As a reader and a buyer of books and magazines, I have been put off making purchases because the author’s blog or the publisher’s website are splattered with typos. If their online words are that bad, how good can their printed words be? Don’t get me wrong. We are all human. We all make mistakes. I have admitted my ample share of them earlier in this post. The occasional error is simply a sign of that humanity, but repeatedly incorrect, unedited words smack of something else. In this world of instant, global communication, attention to detail and editing is as important for our brief Internet communications as it is for something longer. Before you press that post button, go forth and edit! Please. J.S.Watts



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