Sunday, 18 September 2016

The value of an editor


This is going to be a long one, but only because it’s important and I care.
It’s a little bit of a rant, but also a little bit of advice. I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to read this through. It matters a great deal to me and to many others. And before I begin, a friendly reminder: I do not think less of people who aren’t as good at English as I am. I’m not picking on them, I promise. This is about the role of editing.


Lately I've noticed a number of obvious and damaging written errors in some important places: news articles, magazines, emails, ads, promotional posts by small businesses, etc.
The one that made me cringe the most: I was reading a reliable and well-known science magazine that had misspelled "extinction". Twice. On the same page.

But that’s not the end of it.
At a later date I was reading another article in the same issue of the same magazine and stumbled upon three more errors. This time they’d left out a space between “match” and “our”, creating this weird new word, matchour.
Then they had used neither and or together, instead of neither and nor. The general rule is to pair neither with nor, and either with or. Mixing them up just sounds wrong.
Finally, further along in that article, I found this: “The prospect of genetic inequality are at the heart of public concern…”
That was even more irritating once I realised they’d re-used and emphasised that quote in a larger font separately on the page with the correct grammar. They had indeed used “is” instead of “are” there, so why was it wrong in the actual article?


How do writers for a science magazine misspell a word used commonly in the science world? How do writers forget spaces and confuse plural with singular? Well, the writers have probably just made some mistakes. That happens and is forgivable human nature. But that’s why editing exists – to look over written work for inevitable errors. And I think it’s a given that an acclaimed magazine would have an editing department. And so the question now becomes: How do errors like that get through editing without being picked up?



I might shrug it off if bad writing was confined to Facebook posts and texts, but it’s not. People are bringing their poor grammar and spelling with them everywhere, in contexts where more damage can be done.
Errors have been popping up all over the place, and I’ve been left feeling dejected and disappointed.
The career I’m attempting to pursue exists to avoid these issues. Nevertheless, I am seeing more issues, and getting less work. This post is an attempt to address what I believe is contributing to this lack of care for language, and to encourage those reading to consider the value of the editing role.


One of these contributing factors, from my observation, could lie in the “editor” role that is so well known in media, and yet so not an editing job.
I call myself an editor because editing is what I do. But if I accepted a job at a magazine to be an editor, I don’t think I’d be spending my days focused on editing. Many times I’ve looked at ads for jobs like this, and all too often the actual “editing” part of the role is mentioned briefly down the bottom of the job description, or not at all.
I get that there are other jobs to be done in editorial departments, but it seems there is a lack of focus on the editing itself. I rarely find job postings that are just looking for people to edit words. There are always other tasks that take precedence, and this is a problem because editing requires all the focus in the world. There’s no point hiring an editor who has great attention to detail if you’re giving them a hundred different details to focus on beyond their actual editing work. No wonder magazines and newspapers are producing content riddled with errors. Their editors don’t have the capacity, time, or focus to put everything into the task at hand because they have a list of other roles to fulfil as well.

Where are the editing roles that are just about editing? Sure, get your editor to run some other errands when things go quiet, but let editing be their thing. If you need people to do all those other tasks, create a new job title.

To be fair, I know there are editors editing magazines. And I know there are jobs out there. I’ve looked. Occasionally I do stumble upon a job offer that indicates the role predominantly involves editing and fact-checking. But I have a point to make: the editing role requires more care and focus than it seems to be getting. It isn’t valued enough. If it was, I’d be finding more jobs to do, and the world’s words would be cleaner and make more sense. If editing was valued, I wouldn’t have easily found four significant errors in a science magazine.

And yes, that matters. People are lazy with language these days, so much so that anyone trying to correct poor grammar is picked on and called a “grammar nazi”. People would rather joke about it than try to improve. I’ve had people joke about poor grammar to me, like it’s just some annoying hobby I do. But it’s my chosen career and I think it matters, as much as dental health matters to a dentist, and education matters to a teacher.
And beyond the fact that I care, it just seems very few people get the importance of speaking and writing well. In my view, it’s all about effective and meaningful communication, which matters in every aspect of life, in every corner of the globe.
Spelling errors in prestigious magazines, for example, can damage credibility, reputation, and the reader’s experience. The same can apply to novels and news articles. And that’s just the media side of things. Words are used in many other important places where mistakes can be far more impactful.

Beyond all of that, there is another contributing factor that affects me more directly.
I can detach from media jobs to some extent. I know it’s a role I may have to play at some point in this career, but I was never into the idea of a nine-to-five office job anyway, because I’m driven by what makes me happy. That’s why I put my focus (for now) into flexible freelance work, helping the small businesses, passionate individuals, and independent authors out there who could use a second pair of eyes.
So far, that’s worked out a little bit for me. But only a little bit.
I appreciate all those who have reached out in the past year and hired me for their own passions. Every opportunity has brought so much to me. Thank you for taking it seriously and seeing the value.
But, unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough for me to leave my other job which is slowly breaking my back. And spirit.

I’m passionate, I work hard, and I am good at what I do. But I don’t get to do it enough. I’ll keep on doing whatever is necessary to get more work – promoting, networking, and advertising. I know a large part of it is how hard I work to get myself out there. But I believe the following message has to be relayed as well, because clients are the other half of it.
Many of you are ignoring the editing step. And for your sake as well as mine, you shouldn’t.

I’m noticing that small businesses I follow are making constant mistakes in their social media posts. These people know I exist and they know what I offer, but I am not contacted.
I’ve also had clients show interest in edits for their websites and blogs, but have followed that up by not replying to my messages at all. I even gave away a free website edit as part of a deal, and one of my clients simply didn’t use the edits, so I was unable to reference her website as work experience. She also didn’t acknowledge or thank me when I sent them to her.
I mean, if nothing else, that’s just unbelievably rude.

Let me put it this way:
You’d probably rely on a professional printing company for your business cards and flyers. It’s definitely worth spending the money instead of doing it yourself if you’re not good at that sort of thing. You’d spend money on advertising and equipment too.
But why, when it comes to presenting clean words in promotional posts, websites, blogs, etc., are people so unwilling to pay a small amount of money for proofreading?

Speaking and writing well doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Perhaps you put more effort into your passions and your strengths. That’s important to you, so your focus is on that, not your words. And that’s how it should be. But if writing and grammar aren’t your strengths, and you know that, you should be getting a professional to check words for you before publishing. If you know you’re not the one to oversee it, then hire someone who can, who is passionate about writing when you’re not.

It matters, by the way. I’m not just typing this up because I want work. I am also typing this up because I really want to help. I’m tired of seeing problems I know I could have helped with. It’s frustrating and disheartening. And it also sucks for you and what you’re selling, whether you realise it or not.

If you are trying to gain a reputation and make your professional mark on the world, having an editor you can rely on is a good idea. Proofreaders and editors are everywhere, and we exist for this exact reason. Writing is not for everyone, but it does have an effect on the way your potential clients perceive you, and whether they will take you seriously. You don't have to be the one to perfect your writing, especially if it's not something you enjoy. But please recognise that, and acknowledge that someone else can help. If you don't care enough to present your work well, your clients may not care enough to give you a chance. It might be easy to brush proofreading off as an unnecessary step in your work, but I can assure you it makes all the difference. I know many people, myself included, who will be less inclined to give money to a company whose words are all over the place. Poor spelling and grammar turns me off. It turns a lot of people off.
It's great to see so many people sharing their passion with the world, but your followers can be easily distracted by messy writing, and may subsequently lose interest.

Unfortunately, the services editors offer aren’t as desirable as personalised arts or crafts, clothes, food, or photos. It’s a need more than a want, and as a client it can be hard to confront your faults. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. You probably need it, and I’m here. Also, my rates are more than reasonable. I’ll probably raise them some time in the near future, so now is kind of a good time to use me.

If you made it this far, thank you. I want to be clear that I don’t intend to offend anyone. I am simply choosing to speak up because it affects people and I believe talking about it can help. Over the past year I’ve realised I do a thing that people don’t seem to want. But it’s a thing they need. Please don’t be afraid to reach out. I love to support other people pursuing their desires, and I’d appreciate your support too.

If you're looking for editing or proofreading services, be sure to visit my website to check out the services and rates I offer. Thank you for reading!
www.thewritething.com.au

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