Wielding the pen on someone else

Posted: January 21, 2011 in process
Tags: , , , ,

I’m absolutely embroiled in an editing spree at the moment. But I do love it. It’s as satisfying as hearing the cork pop out of a bottle of vintage – which I couldn’t afford if I didn’t have the editing contract. But I can think of at least five non-drinking reasons why I love sorting out people’s work:

1 I can’t bear to read sentences, however meaningful, that don’t have a rhythm to them. This means both within themselves and between each other. It’s so satisfying to adjust the odd word here and the sentence divisions there to achieve this.

2 I hate hearing in my mind’s eye (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?) the same word used twice or – heaven forbid – three times in the first page. But I don’t pass judgement on the writer, for of course these people are experts in their fields and no one is suggesting they should also be able to write the finest prose. Some do, and then I feel cheated – after all, what am I to do with the superfluous red ink?

3 I have a much-loved vendetta against all those double spaces between sentences. It goes like this. I conjure up the Search and Replace tool and tell it to find double spaces and replace them with one. And then, because some people have obviously had a sustained rendezvous with the space bar, I tell it to start all over again… and  again… and sometimes again… until it doesn’t find any more. And then I take a deep breath and continue editing.


4 For some bizarre reason, I really like changing everyone’s perfectly normal Harvard reference list into the Vancouver style required by my bosses. It looks much smarter, and after a few years of carrying out this operation many times per issue, I can do it while playing Angry Birds – but not in my sleep.

5 I love the thanks and praise that come my way. The professionals see that I have tidied up their work into the look they envisaged when they first put finger to keyboard, but which they couldn’t quite manage. The result befits their ‘content’, and I have prevented them being humiliated in public for mistaking ‘to’ and ‘too’ and ‘there’ and ‘their’ and the rest of it.

There are probably more reasons to love editing, but right now, it’s back to the Harvard/Vancouver exercise, with a glass of red on my right and the Angry Birds app on my left.

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