Sensitive editing

Subject: Sensitive editing
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996 13:59:34 -0500

Vanessa Wilburn wondered about how to edit sensitively. A
few pointers learned during years in the trenches:

- Make _suggestions_ for improvements rather than just
writing comments that say "wrongo, correct it". Are you
helping the author, or putting up obstacles?

- Aim to correct the most important things first, and leave
the authors their unique, personal voices if the wording is
correct. You might be able to do better than they did, but
accept an acceptable solution rather than always aiming for

- Phrase your edits as questions, not commands (e.g., "do
you mean xxx?").

- Correct the _problem_, not the writer.

- No matter how stupid or annoying or oft-repeated the
blunder, resist the urge to be snide. If need be, write
yourself a note containing the snide comment so you can
enjoy it and the feeling of catharsis, then eat the note so
that nobody else will ever see it. For really incendiary
comments, consider gently discussing a solution in person
rather than in writing, and change your approach in
response to the author's body language.

- Assume a humble posture: don't assume you know everything
better than the author and how to correct it. You probably
don't. (I, on the other hand... <grin>)

- Build friendly relationships with the writers that go
beyond editing; I can get away with literal (literary?)
murder with most of my authors because they know I
understand most of what they're saying, and because I chat
with them about things other than their writing. Most
importantly, I mean it... I'm not being a sycophant. I can
still act professional and polite with the few guys I don't
like, even if I can't act friendly, and I can work with
them against "the system", our mutual enemy.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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