Editor Speak

 

Economics and Business

Educated in the UK and Germany, this editor has over 25 years of experience working for publishers, universities and as a freelancer. A member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, he has worked as a technical author for numerous international journals.

You've had some exciting times recently, haven't you? Could you tell us something about that?
I am working with a doctor at the University of Manchester. He is a scientist and is single-handedly developing software for corporate use. My role is to improve his English and to help researchers all over the world better understand his work. His research is quite ground-breaking and is supported by the UK government. I am lucky to be working with such a brilliant doctor from one of the top universities in the UK.
The doctor is a native English speaker, isn't he? Do you think it necessary to edit his papers?
Yes, I do. Let me explain how I usually edit. During the first reading, I edit from a grammarian's perspective. For example, I check whether the position of conjunctions is correct, and whether the style of English is consistent. In the next reading, I make sure that the meaning is expressed accurately. It is important to make sure that the document as a whole is consistent; I check punctuation and resolve minor formatting issues, and make sure that the document is presentable. Finally, I read from the beginning and ascertain if the target readership can decipher the message of the document in a single reading.
Do you edit manuscripts written by non-native English speakers?
Of course; I have edited several. The most common mistake non-native authors make concerns the use of "z" in American English, which they almost always forget to use. I've found this to be true in most cases. However, I usually do not make changes to an author's style of writing. One way of explaining my style of editing is to say that I admire the work of writers, and help them present their results more effectively, although there are some papers in which I cannot make head or tail of what the authors are trying to say!
Have you ever edited manuscripts from outside your area of expertise?
Of course I have. Clients have requested me to edit manuscripts from varied fields. However, I do not edit everything I am asked to. I have come across several cases that have taught me to check the content before starting an edit. Understanding the subject is of great importance to me.
Could you give us an example of an assignment that challenged your skills as an editor?
Hmm.an example! Once, a long time ago, a client wanted me to edit a recipe book. Once I had started, I found that it was quite difficult because there were so many instructions, and ingredient names that I was unfamiliar with. In fact, I had to refer to a couple of books and several websites to make sense of them. I finally discovered that they were recipes for African dishes!
It's difficult to make sense of recipes if you don't know what the final dish is going to be!
Exactly! I've never even seen any African food, and I didn't find much usable information about it on the Internet. I usually get feedback from clients, and fortunately, the lady liked my work at the time; but I would rather avoid such manuscripts that lie beyond my subject area, because I cannot do them full justice. In my opinion, editors need to understand the subject thoroughly, without which it is difficult to accomplish any kind of editing.
Most editing firms are very careful in their choice of editors, and rely on subject area expertise. In your opinion, when can an editor call himself or herself a 'professional' or an 'expert'?
I have been involved in editing for 25 years, and I think that it is a continuous learning process. The English language is vast, and there is so much to learn. From my own experiences, I can say that a willingness to learn and the right attitude are important if one wants to become a professional editor. I'm a member of an Editors' Association, and they've sent me many complex documents to edit. Also, recently, I've been receiving papers from Oxford University. Thus, I have been growing continually. Editors have a lifelong learning curve.
Note that the views expressed on this page are of the person interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of Enago as a company. Please contact feedback@enago.com if you have any questions regarding the content of this interview.

 

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