Well, are your words tasty?
“If only I hadn’t said that,” is often wailed by the broken-hearted, following a miserable row, or muttered by a regretful employee during the office Christmas party. What would the miserable lover or the tipsy party-goer have given for a filter on their spoken words? Given half a chance, they would have spotted their errors, stopped the conversation, cut out the offending sections of dialogue, reformatted the chat and started again where they left off.
Luckily, it’s different for the written word, that is as long as the writer chooses to get a fresh pair of eyes to act as that filter. If those eyes are inside the head of a professional editor, who understands exactly where and why writers make mistakes, then the writer will never have the unpleasant task of trying to eat the words they’ve put on paper.
What do editors do?
Copy-editors know how to make words work well and deal with a wide variety of text, from tee-shirt slogans, website wording and department store marketing materials to academic papers, technical manuals and published books. Whatever the text, the copy-editor’s aim is always to improve the wording and format. Often referred to as the seven Cs of editing, an editor’s focus is to make the text: clear, correct, coherent, complete, concise, consistent and credible.
The human brain is hard-wired to fill in the blanks as we read. This gives us the ability to speed-read or scan our eyes over text. It’s a useful skill when we want to take in lots of information quickly, but it can also lead to us skipping over some outrageous errors without seeing them. Here’s an example of what can go wrong. A healthcare provider had thousands of flyers printed to invite people in the local community to a “Pubic Health Day”. Of course, the flyers were meant to read “Public”. It’s a funny mistake, but the money wasted on printing the useless flyers meant the Chief Executive wasn’t laughing. Involving an editor or proofreader in the process would have saved a lot of time, money and embarrassment.
Who edits the editors?
It’s amazing how often good writers develop blind spots and fail to notice clanging typos and clichéd or overused words or terms. Mismatched images and captions are another common area for mistakes, along with wonky formatting, punctuation and grammar. Text can have too few or too many headings, a variety of fonts and a host of other issues. Even copy-editors benefit from help with their own text and regularly seek the assistance of proofreaders to pick up on the willful typos and grammatical slips that can plague even the most elegant writing. Proof-editing (a combination of copy-editing and proofreading) is a comprehensive way to capture all of the problems with a piece of text and turns good writing into excellent writing.
Less mistakes, more mistletoe
The lonely-hearted can only hope their harsh words didn’t linger in their beloved’s mind and the employee may sigh with relief when they learn a rude colleague upset the boss more than they had. With a little luck they may get away with their mistakes after all. Even though written words generally stay with us for longer than the spoken ones, you can make sure you never live to regret your words. Your editor’s job is to help you make the most of your writing and keep your reputation intact. Most importantly, your editor will make sure any written mistakes are never made public, or should that be pubic?
So, what about a verbal filter this party season? Well, I wish I had some advice for you. Drop me a line if you find the answer to that one, and meantime, have fun at the office party.
HAPPY BODHI DAY, MERRY CHRISTMAS, JOYOUS SOLSTICE, HAPPY HANUKKA AND A PEACEFUL YULETIDE TO ALL
I'm Chris Bryce, writer, editor and proofreader. Do you think the difference between breathing and not breathing is the most important one there is? I do. I'm a big fan of breathing, smiling and meaningful communication in all its forms,