Editors are a misunderstood lot. People think editing is the addition of missing commas, question marks, and other punctuation marks. They say just a quick edit. A look at the grammar maybe. It won’t take you long will it?
Thing is, yes it will. Not because we are bad at our jobs, but because we are good at it. We give YOUR piece of writing more than a cursory glance. Of course, we look for missing punctuation marks, punctuation errors, grammatical errors, and mistakes of all types. But we also look at the overall style, voice, flow, relevance to the topic, the clarity of the points you make, and the length of sentences. We substitute words, we add words, we make sentences more concise and clear. We have a guideline for your document. We follow a certain way of spelling (UK English/American English/Australian English). We look at the context in which you are writing, the country in which you are writing from. We look at what matters to you, in your time, and in your place, and also, to your study or country or organization, or whatever it is that matters to you that requires this document from you. Also, if we write anything for you (we do have to add words or change sentences), we change our own styles to match your style (so you won’t find us using the word brevity (or even eschew) if your “hardest” word is a one-syllable word (and vice versa, mind you!). Also, if there are references, we check that these are done right, all are caught, etc.
These are not the only things we do. We keep a massive list of rules in our heads when we edit. But for now, this should suffice. 🙂
Editing requires great concentration and patience. We are, after all, looking at someone else’s writing and 1. making sense out of that, 2. looking for errors, 3. looking to make the writing even better. It is a fun job, but a stressful one. It is also a professional job. It requires skill, time, focus, energy, and great attention to detail. It is not to be scoffed at or taken lightly. Of course, it can be done if your language skills are up to mark. There will be many who will “edit” (more correctly known as proof-reading) a document. However, true editing is not easy. And it takes years and years, and even then, we appreciate someone else taking a second look. After all, humans are not infallible. If we do not have another editor to take a second look, we ourselves come back to it after a while. So, this is no easy job. 🙂
Years after I received my training, I still wish my early trainers could guide me, there is so much more I want to learn. And I look back, with great respect and gratitude, on the men and women who have taught me all I know and trained me so well (sometimes against my will!). This post is dedicated to them in appreciation.