The lighter side of editing

The lighter side of editing

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why Editors Should Always Proofread Their Comments to Authors

This post contains exactly one instance of profanity. If you don’t think you can handle that, please go read something else.

Editing is so much more than correcting spelling and inserting commas. Part of the job involves communicating with authors about changes you’re suggesting or questions you have, and that means writing effective comments and queries.

Fine…no problem. I enjoy commenting and querying, adding the occasional What if you…? Several clients have told me that my comments are right on target and offer insightful suggestions.

Great. Excellent. Fantastic.

But the most insightful query is just so much poo if it contains misspellings or other unintended things. Editors must take care when querying, because one sure way to turn a client off is to offer crappy or just plain mean comments. With this in mind, I try to be constructive and helpful, even when I’m offering criticism. Instead of writing, “What on earth is this supposed to mean?” when I come across a passage I just cannot decipher, I write, “I’m not quite sure of the intended meaning here. Can you clarify?” Or something like that.

That’s all well and good, but I have a problem: I can’t type worth a darn. I learned to type, more or less, on a manual typewriter back in the eighth grade, more oodles of years ago than I care to mention, and I can muddle my way through most things (with frequent use of the backspace key). Every once in a while, though, my fingers do something my conscious brain did not tell them to do. For example, I’ll think “ephemeral,” and my struggling little fingers will punch out “emphatic.” You get the idea.

Sometimes authors mention names or events or what have you that readers aren’t likely to be familiar with.  When I come across such an item, I usually mean to write, “Perhaps you could explain this a little further.” Every once in a while, though, my sneaky little fingers will type, “Perhaps you could explain shit a little further.”

And that is why editors should always proofread their comments to authors.

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