Short Saturday: The Joy of Editing

I just sent back a first pass edit on a well-researched novel set in the Middle Ages. I can tell you this only because it rang true; the few facts I know about medieval life could dance on the head of a pin with room to spare for several angels.

But I knew enough to ask some good questions.

That’s an editor’s job, of course: to question everything. Still, it helps to have a little miscellaneous knowledge.* It makes the job easier—and more fun—as New Yorker editor Mary Norris noted in this piece about copyediting that ran online a month ago:

One of the things I like about my job is that it draws on the entire person: not just your knowledge of grammar and punctuation and usage and foreign languages and literature but also your experience of travel, gardening, shipping, singing, plumbing, Catholicism, Midwesternism, mozzarella, the A train, New Jersey. And in turn it feeds you more experience. The popular image of the copy editor is of someone who favors rigid consistency. I don’t usually think of myself that way. But, when pressed, I do find I have strong views about commas.

The article is what these days is called a #longread, and if you enjoy the fine details of editing—whether you’re doing the editing or being edited—it’s worth every minute of your time, not least for her discussion of Dylan Thomas’s poem “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”

Oh my.

* I wrote about this a few years ago, but it doesn’t hurt to remind oneself.


Tweet: It helps to have a little miscellaneous knowledge when you’re an editor.
Tweet: Editing “draws on the entire person”—your life experience and knowledge helps.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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