Re. Writer/editor relationships in revisions

Subject: Re. Writer/editor relationships in revisions
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 1995 12:35:10 LCL

Raymond Chenier poses a difficult situation in which the client, whose
English writing skills are poor, keeps second-guessing RC's writing.
RC suggests that this is becoming a great annoyance, and wishes his
mentor/editor would intervene and ask the client to butt out.

Been there, done that! But I'd say it's unwise to get your mentor
involved in what is largely an interpersonal issue. This would turn
what should be a fruitful collaboration into a dominance issue...
which will undermine the working relationship and perhaps even end it.
It's harder to learn to resolve these interpersonal issues than it is
to learn how to write well, and as long as you work with humans, the
dynamics of that relationship will be an ongoing challenge.

First off, define what annoys you. You've indicated that the client is
an expert in the subject, but not in the language, so make a clear
distinction between errors of fact or meaning and _presumed_ errors of
writing. Don't let yourself get annoyed by the client's corrections of
any factual errors, just try to make fewer of them. (If the fellow is
thinking in a second language, you may gradually learn how to map the
thoughts into English. If not, talk to the client until you understand
the issue _before_ you write about it. Since you're in Ottawa, I'd
guess this is an English/French issue, and there are enough
similarities between the two languages that you could discuss in
French and do your own translation into English based on the

The writing issues are more of a problem. If the client's suggestions
are well-intended, take them that way, no matter how annoying they
seem to be. But gently point out that this is a waste of time and that
the client should concentrate on errors of fact and leave you to
determine whether the writing is correct. To reassure the client,
offer to have a small test group of English-language speakers (from
your proposed audience) review the final version for its
effectiveness. This is a good idea anyway, and you'll learn a useful
lesson when you discover that your expert opinion may not match that
of your inexpert audience. This happens! <grin>

Most importantly, make sure you're being annoyed for the right reason:
no one likes being edited, even if we appreciate the results, and some
of what you see as an intrusion may actually be good advice... it's
easy to ignore this aspect of corrections once you've become irritated
with the fact that there are any corrections at all. In short, define
the reason for your irritation, and use this definition as the basis
for renegotiating your working relationship with the author. Gently
remind the client that _you're_ the English expert, but do so without
devaluing the client's input.

If all else fails, learn to live with it. Editors, professional or
otherwise, can be annoying individuals. (As an editor, I speak for
myself and only incidentally for my colleagues... many of whom will
probably agree with this assessment, off the record. <grin>) The trick
is to focus on the helpful parts of that annoyance and try to ignore
the less helpful parts.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of
our reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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