Category: editor

Should you point out other people’s mistakes?

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Have you ever told a friend that they look fat in a pair of pants? Or that they have a terrible haircut? I’m sure that you’ve done something like this at least once in your life… and it’s probably happened to you as well.

How did the person receive the criticism? Did they appreciate your honesty and attempt to help them right their particular wrong? Or did they lash out at you because you hurt their feelings? How did you react when it happened to you?

An individual’s reaction to criticism often depends on the relationship between the two parties involved. Two friends can “criticize” each other when they have a strong relationship – that is, they know each other well and any critiques are meant to help the other person. But being criticized by a stranger, a colleague or someone you are not well connected with is a recipe for backlash, hurt feelings and other forms of disaster. You must always tread lightly.

Early in my editing career, I thought that I could demonstrate my editing skills by contacting random companies and pointing out the flaws in their content, such as spelling errors in advertising materials. I have heard other editors discussing the same strategy. It rarely worked then, and it rarely works today. Generally speaking, people don’t appreciate being told by strangers that they’ve done something wrong. Companies are not machines – they are run by people. Criticizing a company’s work to gain work is not an effective strategy because people do not like being criticized by strangers. It does work in some cases, but I believe that it turns away more people than it attracts.

Case in point: I was approached a photographer who said that my online profile picture was very amateurish, and she could help me to improve my appearance with a professional photo. That is probably true, but I would probably seek someone else out to provide this service because it came off as more of an insult… and an appeal to use her services. I am sure that she would do a great job, but she did not try to form a relationship first. She pointed out my problem and said that she could fix it. It might benefit both of us, but she’s only thinking about what she can do to help herself first.

Telling me that I have flat tire is one thing – telling me that I look like an amateur is another. It’s not the best way to get me to use your services.

Have you given or received criticism? How did it go? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Six factors to consider when hiring an editor

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According to Mary James, as summarized in an article for the Publishing Training Centre and published in Pikestaff newsletter, there are six key factors that publishers in the UK use when determining who to hire to edit or proofread their work. The article is addressed to editors, and they are the “you” described in the following list. I think that this list applies in Canada and the U.S. as well.

Anyone who wants to hire an editor should ensure that they meet the following criteria:

  1. You can adhere to tight deadlines.
  2. You know your target market inside out.
  3. You’re easy to work with.
  4. Your communication skills, particularly over the phone, are second to none.
  5. You provide value for money.
  6. You guarantee high levels of confidentiality.

Personally, I think I rank #1 and #3 as the key reasons that my clients work with me.

Do you need a copy editor, or would like to discuss whether you can use an editor? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Are you a compulsive editor?

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Many people have asked me, “What does an editor do?” One possible answer is, “An editor ensures that the reader can understand what is being read.” Editors follow rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation, style, and purpose (among other factors) to achieve this goal.

However, there is such a thing as being too much of an editor – being overly fastidious and strict, having too much concern for rules, and not concerning oneself with the writer’s goal. Of course, the editor should pay attention to accuracy and clarity, but should not focus so much on grammatical accuracy that the writer’s voice and intent are entirely scrubbed clean. Writers should be given some license, and readers don’t always want to read completely sterile copy. You must find a balance, and the amount of editing required will vary according to many factors.

Avoid (or consider) the following compulsive editorial traits:

  1. Focusing on preferred rules of usage – regardless of the effect on communication. Many editors have preferred spellings or usages, and will go through a document to remove anything that does not meet their strict preference. Readers want variety of expression – removing variation can reduce readability.
  2. Focusing too long on consistency. Some editors will work to ensure that spacing, footnotes and other layout elements look exactly in the current issue as they did in previous issues. Maintaining consistency is great – spending hours to verify every minor element is a poor use of time.
  3. Changing every passive sentence to an active sentence. Active writing is generally more effective and powerful, but the passive voice has its purpose and provides variety.
  4. Focusing on negative space over positive space. White space in a document is important for readability. Focusing on the amount of space and ensuring that everything is adequately aligned is a waste of time and effort. The final product should look good, but not to the detriment of the content or time required to perform a proper edit.

As with many aspects in life, there is such as thing as too much, and that includes editing. Editors must find the balance between making a document better and changing a document just for the sake of change.

Do you need an experienced editor to help you create great content? Let me know –

David Gargaro