What Is Editing As We Grow Older?

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!