How I edit

As an editor, one of the challenges that one is often faced with is the extent to which one should edit a person’s work. Should one only correct the grammar and typos or is it permissible to rewrite sections of the text?

This is a difficult one and there’s much debate as to what the correct treatment of a text should be. Some clients will ask for a proofread but what the text really requires is a reordering of the structure – as well as attention to typos and grammar.

Personally, I like to err on the side of caution and not perform a radical edit, unless the client has give me licence to do so. The first thing that goes through my mind before  I tackle a piece of editing is:  “If this were my text, how would I want it to be edited?” Remember: a piece of writing is like the author’s biological baby. They’ve give birth to it,  moulded it  and it’s a reflection of them. A ruthless editor feels like a murderer as it tears apart their creation, and by default themselves.

If it’s a piece of writing for a company  – be it as lengthy as a press release or as short as a social media post – that I’ve produced on instruction from said institution I default to the company style and the image that the company wants to portray. If they don’t like what I’ve written, and end up rewriting it themselves, I don’t take it personally that they’ve taken it upon themselves to write what I was tasked with. They are the client and they know what’s best for their company. They know what image they want to portray. It’s not up to me to decide.

I find that the trick to being an editor is not to become too emotionally involved with your work. I feel that being an editor is a teeny bit like a doctor – without the added pressure of holding an actual person’s life in your hands because just as a doctor is responsible for making someone better so is an editor responsible for bringing an added dimension to the text that the author would have never thought possible.