Editing the contributions of dozens of people requires a decisive editorial hand. Annual reports, commemorative books, and museum panels are just a few of such publications. The editor of such materials often has little direction and no access to the writers, but shares the typical editorial goal of producing cohesive and consistent material. Like the conductor, bringing together the many voices in a choir.
Dimitra Chronopoulos is a Toronto-based freelancer who regularly takes on such editing assignments for non-profits; she’s been editing for 15 years. We spoke to her about the particular challenges she addresses.
Getting as many preferences from your contact during the initial project brief is probably your best bet. Chronopolous suggests covering these areas, in addition to the usual deadline, length, and budget details:
- Formal or colloquial tone?
- Will sentence fragments be allowed?
- Which people to edit with the lightest touch?
- Should the president’s preferences become preferred style?
- Style preferences re capitalization, dictionary, punctuation.
- Will Committee always be capitalized, for instance?
- Should everyone’s academic and professional credentials be listed?
When the material in hand is blurbs submitted by dozens of non-writers, the editor has to make a lot of decisions. There’s no opportunity to query the author, and your contact probably doesn’t know how to decide, but the goal remains making it consistent.
“When in doubt, stet,” says Chronopoulos. “If you've looked it up and thought about it and considered whether it really matters, sometimes leaving it is the best choice.” A dictionary and Chicago Manual of Style are Chronopoulos’ constant companions.
“It’s satisfying to bringing order and clarity [to these materials],” she says. “The one thing you can make consistent between contributions is hyphenation.”