In last week’s post, I talked about why an editor is useful and effective even if (or even because) they are not a subject matter expert. Now let’s look at sample queries that help both the editor and the writer save face when editing the unfamiliar.
Three Sample Queries
Experience tells me that queries such as “Does this mean X?” without offering alternative phrasing usually yield a “yes it does” response. But when I edit material to show a clearer expression of what I think the intent was, the writer can respond to the reader’s possible misinterpretation (shown in my edit) and provide clarification. So the queries below are never provided without an accompanying suggested edit, flagged by a Track Change to make it obvious.
The idea with the query is to both flag something the editor finds unclear and demonstrate that she recognizes that the awkward item may be an industry standard she is simply unfamiliar with. This shows respect for the expert’s knowledge and helps both people save face.
Frame queries in terms of reader’s needs, not your failing or the writer’s:
AU: Is this a term of art that readers will be familiar with or does it make sense to change this as suggested?
Don’t query every change, but do query ones you know could be changing the meaning:
AU: Change ok to smooth the grammatical flow or does this make it inaccurate?
Appeal to authorities:
AU: I’m not finding this term in [selected dictionary] and the definitions I find online suggest that it means [definition that is at odds with the way it is used here]. Would readers find it easier to follow the argument if [other word] were used instead?
When I suspect it might be an error but is definitely a change that the text hasn’t made sense of:
AU: The text has talked about [226Ra] so far. Does this switch to [222Rn] need to be explained for readers?
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