Re: What editors do (long)

Subject: Re: What editors do (long)
From: Jim Purcell <jimpur -at- MICROSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 15:24:18 -0800

As one who does both writing and editing, I would like to second Jean
Weber's excellent points about the career paths available to editors.
Part of the job of the copyeditor is to pick nits, but those who are
content to stop there will find themselves disappointed with the pay,
status, and opportunities available to them.

Technical editors who take seriously the "technical" in their job title
have a brighter, more interesting future. On writing teams, it is not
unusual for the editor to be the only person who reads every word. That
some organizations squander such a resource by limiting their editors to
chasing commas and enforcing stylistic consistency is a misfortune for
everyone involved. A technically aware editor can point out redundancies
and contradictions that nobody else will ever see until the manual has
gone out the door. She can ferret out subtly (and not so subtly)
misleading statements that tech reviewers often overlook. She can
identify topics in various parts of a book that should be consolidated
in one place. She can identify gaps that result when everybody thinks
somebody else has a topic covered. She can raise questions that a
passage should, but does not, answer. In short, she can have as much
influence on the final product as any writer--maybe more.

Such an editor stands in for the intended reader. In this sense, her
editorial role is an act of imagination, but it is a necessary act if a
team of writers is to produce a conceptually and logically coherent and
complete book. Developmental editing can be every bit as satisfying (and
remunerative) as writing. Developmental editing requires critical
thinking in the broadest sense, an interest in technology, and the
ability to work with disparate (and not always supportive)
personalities. In this way, it can foster management skills, if that's a
direction you choose to take. Developmental editing also leads you to
think in terms of the whole product, which can make for good marketing
timber, if you consider that a step up.

Not all companies have the resources or the vision to make the fullest
use of the editors in their employ. Don't let that discourage you.
Editing is a good area in which to make your own opportunities, or to
find a company big and wise enough to give you room to grow.

Jim Purcell
jimpur -at- microsoft -dot- com
My opinions, not Microsoft's


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