How to Improve Your Editing Skills: Part 1
Whether it’s one of your serious New Year’s resolutions or simply a method to keep boredom at bay, sharpening your editing skills is always a good idea. Always. Even thoroughly trained and experienced editors can be lulled into seeing only a limited field of errors and applying a limited set of fixes. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at some ways you can hone your red-pen craft.
The first, and my favorite:
The Pros to Your Cons
Professionals and Your Continuing Education
Get your eyes on an experienced, professional editor’s tracked changes. I believe in the effectiveness of this method like MacGyver believes in the usefulness of duct tape. As a production editor earlier in my career, I managed and processed the work of many freelance editors. By paying attention to their editing, I enhanced my own. By the time I was hired as a full-time copyeditor at a university press, I was already a solid academic editor. But then... oh boy... then I discovered the editing archives at the press. I learned more by reading over one redlined edit by a masterful copyeditor colleague* than I did by all the studying and training of earlier years. The edits were beautiful -- needful and simple and elegant. I was surprised again and again. My best advice for copyeditors seeking training or further development of their skills: get a peep at a master editor’s tracked changes.
Get your writing (and editing) reviewed by a professional editor. Editors aren’t always great writers, so this may take some humility. It’s beneficial for at least two reasons, however. It gives you greater empathy for the authors who produce the writing you edit, and that empathy will make you a better editor. And it also reveals the sort of construction, style, and usage you find most natural and might be inclined to overlook even when it’s out of place in something you’re editing. (I feel certain that a good editor would have something to say about that previous sentence, for example.) If a clunky phrase doesn’t seem clunky to you, if a particular cliché happens to be one of the few you still kind of like, if 20 em dashes in a 200 word articles seems about right -- you might be missing a few things in the materials you’re editing. Of course, you can also have a skilled editor in your field review something you’ve edited, which has its own obvious benefits and applications. Either way, brave the critique, editors. You’ll be better for it!
Tune in over the next few weeks for more ways to improve your editing skills.
My public thanks and an enthusiastic shout-out to the incomparable copyeditors whose work I foraged in and greatly benefited from: Mary Giles and Carol Betts.