Getting the words right for professional publications

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What will the editor do?

The days of the ‘blue pencil’ are long gone. Your text is edited on screen in the format you have used to write it, such as Microsoft Word™ (or other word processing format) using the ‘Tracked changes’ facility. This allows you to see everything the editor has done at a glance so if you do not want to accept any change it is easy for you to reject it. Of course, if you prefer to have paper (‘hard’) copy marked up with corrections, it isn’t a problem – it just isn’t very common now.

The editor will also raise queries, for instance if a sentence or passage is ambiguous, or there seems to be something missing so that the sense is hard to follow, or if something said in one place is apparently contradicted elsewhere. These are common problems. The copy editor is looking at the text with a fresh, objective eye, detecting problems that may not be apparent to those who wrote or commissioned the text, because they are so close to the subject and know what is meant. We often see what we expect to see – the copy editor sees what is actually there.

Possibly the text is too long but you can’t see how to cut it without removing valuable information. This is a familiar problem that careful editing can solve.

The editor will also look at the structure of the writing – perhaps copy that is near the end would be more useful moved nearer to the beginning, for instance, or there may be too much of a ‘jump’ from one statement to another. Perhaps additional explanation is needed, or there is repetition or over-labouring of a particular point.

Editing can be the start of a dialogue with the author or person who commissioned the writing, working together to sort out problems and ensure that the right message is conveyed in the right way.

All organisations producing publications – whether websites, reports, manuals or whatever – should have a style guide to ensure consistent use of terms and preferred spellings. If you do not have one, Genesys can produce one for you.