How to Improve Your Editing Skills: Part 2
In part 1 of this series on how to improve your editing skills, we looked at my favorite method, something I call the Pros to Your Cons (Professionals and Your Continuing Education). Access to editing archives isn’t the only way to hone your red-pen craft.
Another method I recommend:
Peek, Pique, Peak Your Interest
Fight the urge to correct instead of question. Was your first instinct to choose the “correct” form of “pique your interest” in the subtitle above? All editors probably experience that feeling of not being able to “turn off the editing brain.” Some would love to take a Sharpie to the supermarket to correct the “10 items or less” signs and strike out all the extraneous apostrophes. Dedication to clear communication is admirable. But that particular sort of “always on” editing is probably doing you more harm than good. It’s keeping you in spot-and-correct mode instead of think-and-question mode. It may sound a little hokey (I prefer practical advice, too), but a great way to sharpen your editing skills is to put down the red pen and work on cultivating a sense of interest and curiosity. What, for example, might a fellow editor mean by using peek, pique, and peak with “your interest”?
Feed your curiosity. Give yourself time to take a second glance (peek) at something you find vaguely interesting. Purposefully seek out things that stir (pique) your interest. Indulge in following a topic until you’ve had your fill (peak). Curiosity didn’t kill the copyeditor—it made him stronger. Whether the topics you explore are ever relevant to the material you edit, your habit of being generally curious and willing to do a little legwork to satisfy that curiosity will serve you well.
Cultivate a questioning response. Get in the habit of asking questions of the oodles of information and communication you experience every day. Reading the news, scanning your Twitter feed, watching movies, being annoyed by Facebook, clipping coupons, laughing at TV sitcoms, eavesdropping on subway conversations—What’s the main point being communicated? Was an expression expected and uninteresting; was it surprising and interesting? What’s being implied? How does a particular word choice enhance or obscure the meaning? If you can’t “turn off the editing brain,” perhaps you can turn it on to questions that will give you a fresh editing approach.
Cultivating a habit of interest and curiosity is one of the best things you can do for your editing skills. An editor who finds her work engaging is a sharper editor than one who doesn’t.