Editor Speak


Physical Sciences and Engineering

After completing her Master's in Geochemistry, this editor's life took a literary turn. She is a published novelist (Dell and Avalon), and a frequent contributor to the University of British Columbia's The Graduate magazine. She also edits science articles and is an active member of the Editors' Association of Canada.

You have published six articles in 2005 and two in 2006. So are you primarily a writer or an editor?
I am a writer. It's what I have always wanted to be.
So then, what made you decide to become an editor?
After graduating, I worked at McGill University in geochemistry and co-authored a paper that was published in Canadian Spectroscopy. I debuted as a writer in 1975 with my first novel, and since then I have written 5 novels and published one more in 2005. Besides writing, I joined the Editors' Association of Canada in 1992 with the intention of extending the range of my work. I learned the ABCs of editing in workshops conducted by the association. Having written for a long time, I was familiar with editing. Since joining EAC, I have edited over 50 science articles for journal publication, written and edited over 90 job descriptions for 15 government departments, and have also edited non-fiction, novels, press releases, and articles.
Why did you take up literature? It's not the usual choice for a Geology graduate, is it?
Yes, I majored in Geology at university and followed it up with Geochemistry. Somewhere along the way, getting involved in technicalities and the minutiae of science lost its appeal. I have been interested in arts like painting and literature since I was a student; so, I decided to go down that road. But I'm a scientist at heart. I wrote "Stephen Hawking in Seattle" in 2006 and "Einstein and the World Year of Physics" in 2005, which are about science. Editing theses on geology rekindles many memories. People cannot be experts in all things at the same time. But geochemistry is still my home base.
Does the fact that you are a writer affect your work as an editor?
Writers spend lots of time doing research, but then struggle to succeed as novelists. Most editors don't spend time on research, but I do. I take great effort to understand what authors want to convey and to judge whether they are expressing their intentions and information correctly. I try to gain knowledge of all things as accurately as possible. To be a writer is to develop such an attitude.
So, you like to be perfect. How exactly does one get to be a "perfect editor"?
Exactly! I am a perfectionist and everything I do has to be the best. When I edit, I have to go back to the text, comprehend the context, extract the meaning, and try to express it in a lucid manner. In cases where I cannot guess what the author is trying to convey, which happens sometimes when English is a second language for the author, I will re-read the text several times. Usually, I will work on a hard copy first and then return to the monitor; so, editing for me is a time consuming process. In order to make work satisfying, I take the time I need. It's the same when I write.
What is the most important thing to keep in mind when editing?
Everything. Everything! A period, a space, whatever, everything. My eyes fall on everything.
In order to make the finished product perfect, the original document itself should be readable to a certain extent, right? What should authors keep in mind while writing?
I would like authors to study the journals to which they plan to submit their work. Sometimes, I am stunned to find that the document does not follow the journal guidelines even after I have done everything to make the document compatible. I am a scientist and have considerable experience in submitting theses; so I wonder why authors commit such mistakes. I strongly suggest that authors check journal guidelines before they start writing.
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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