Spend enough time on interstate highways and you are likely to see a semitrailer bearing the slogan “Helping the World Keep Promises.” The slogan is the registered trademark of Old Dominion Freight Lines. The people who came up with the slogan deserves whatever reward they received for that piece of work. It’s a clever reminder that Old Dominion is successful when the customer is successful.
As 2019 begins we are may find ourselves making resolutions—essentially promises to ourselves. We will also hear a lot about promises in the long months between now and the next U.S. elections. The fortunes of politicians rise and fall with the voting public’s perceptions of how well they have kept their promises or how well they will be able to keep them in the future.
Freelancers are promise makers and promise keepers. Our fortunes rise and fall with our clients’ perceptions of how well we are able to deliver the quality of work that is promised on the schedule that is promised. As someone who has also hired and supervised many freelancers, I know how hard freelancers work to keep their promises. I’ve needed to extend clemency on a few occasions when a freelancer has run into difficulties. On even fewer occasions I’ve needed to pick up the pieces resulting from a complete failure.
May all the freelancers whom I have the pleasure to know be successful in gaining opportunities to make promises in 2019. May you be wise and courageous in the challenges you accept. May you be successful in keeping promises, both to your clients and to yourselves. Finally, may your clients show their appreciation of your work with both praise and just compensation.
Although I’ve spent several decades helping to publish other people’s work, I’m still relatively new to copyediting other people’s work as a way of earning a living. That means that I have to be aware of several realities.
The first is that, having reached a certain age, I am inclined to believe that my opinions and preferences are more entitled to respect and deference now than they once were. My opinions and preferences don’t matter, however. What the writer has to say, and how readily the audience can understand what the writer has to say, matter.
The second is related to the first. The writer whose work I am editing is probably an acknowledged expert, even though the work may include passages that are less than optimal or that conjure up Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins. Recently I read an article entitled “Vikings cleared the forests, now Iceland is bringing them back.” My first thought was to dismiss the article and the writer because the antecedent of “them” is ambiguous. But hold on! This writer has had her work published in The New York Times and National Geographic. She knows what she’s doing. Any reasonable person would know that Icelanders aren’t looking to have Nordic raiders brought back to their shores in shackles. Iceland is bringing back the forests. The same dissonance that first prompted me to dismiss the article probably drew in many readers who were rewarded with a smart, encouraging, and informative read.
The third reality is that communication and language have evolved and continue to evolve. In some media some forms of expression that once were considered unacceptable are now not only acceptable but used widely. Profanity is one such form of expression. I’m not a censor, although I have stopped reading one or two books and stopped watching some movies because of gratuitous profanity. I will probably question the use of profanity when I come across it in an editing assignment, but if the client insists that it is appropriate for the piece and the audience, then I need to accept that.
If you are an editor, what are the realities that keep your chosen profession interesting and challenging? If you hire editors, what do you wish editors understood better about your content?
Thank you for stopping by and reading. Whatever challenges and realities your next editing project presents, I’d welcome the opportunity to be considered for it. Best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2019!