Post by Chris Bryce
‘If only I hadn’t said that’ … a phrase familiar to the broken-hearted following a heated row, or the regretful employee the morning after the office party. What would the miserable lover or tipsy partygoer have given for a filter on their spoken words? The answer would probably be … anything!
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.
Luckily, it’s different for the written word, because the writer can choose to get a fresh pair of eyes to act as that filter. And if those eyes are inside the head of a professional editor, who understands exactly where and why mistakes are made, then the writer will never have the unpleasant task of trying to claw back 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 T-shirt slogans, website wording and marketing materials, to academic papers, technical manuals and published books.
Whatever they’re working on, 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 the local community to a ‘Pubic Health Day’. Of course, the flyers were meant to read ‘Public’. A funny mistake? The Chief Executive wasn’t laughing. Money was wasted on printing those useless flyers.
This example also perfectly demonstrates the unreliable nature of spellcheckers. ‘Pubic’ wouldn’t have been picked up by a computer program because it is a word; just not the right word here. 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. A 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 unintentional 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 turn good writing into excellent writing.
Don’t live to regret your words
It’s an editor’s job to help you make the most of your writing. But, perhaps more importantly, an editor will also help you to keep your reputation intact, making sure any written mistakes are never made public. (Or should that be pubic?)
As far as a verbal filter is concerned … well, drop me a line if you find the answer to that one!
For local, qualified copy-editors and proofreaders, take a look at our Directory now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris is an editor, proofreader and copywriter, with over ten years of experience across business, organisational and creative writing areas.