I don’t sneak into writers’ offices to tuck an overused thesaurus or book of quotes into the back of a bottom desk drawer. (Tempting.) And I don’t borrow their smartphones to surreptitiously delete the social media shortcuts that double as deadline “longcuts.” (Never even occurred to me, I’m sure.) But I do hide things from my writers.
I hide some of the nitty-gritty messiness that goes into editing. No matter how well you prepare them, how quickly and clearly you get your “it’s not as bad as it looks” message to them, some writers will be traumatized and others distracted by the blood-red edits and the gore of tracked changes. Editing is surgery — sometimes cosmetic and sometimes vital — and there’s a reason patients and families are not invited to observe surgery procedures.
As a proponent of open communication and mutual respect in the author-editor relationship, it took me awhile to come around to silent (untracked) edits. I now use them often, but strategically and only after fully explaining them to my writers.*
An author who is a double-spacer between sentences? Mention it once, silently fix it thereafter. A writer who italicizes every other sentence for emphasis? Mention it once, silently fix it thereafter. Same goes for correcting the Director of Vanity Capitalization or the author who spells out nine hundred and ninety-nine numbers in all the wrong contexts.
Sometime it’s best to hide some things from your writers. Selective tracking controls the editorial bleeding, helping writers focus on the vital parts of the edit. My recommendation: put Ctrl+Shift+E** in your regular editing arsenal and get used to toggling the tracking on and off.