Friday, 14 December 2007

Editors — A Breed Apart…

We may walk upright, require three square meals a day and bear a striking physical resemblance to our fellow mankind, but don’t be fooled by these superficial attributes, editors are, in my opinion, a breed apart.

I’m not suggesting that we are superheroes, or freaks of nature, or anything like that, but we do possess certain traits that tend to attract funny glances from our peers and have the potential to empty a room in record-breaking time. It is a basic prerequisite of a job as an editor that you are at least a little neurotic; the misplacement of a comma or the omission of a full stop can assume an Armageddon-like magnitude capable of reducing even the strongest of editors to a blubbering mess. But it is these finer details that have the power to transform a good piece of writing into a masterpiece.

These neuroses can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand the gnawing terror of putting a comma wrong, if you’ll pardon the pun, is what makes us good at our jobs. But on the other hand, there is only so much time you can spend deliberating over the capitalisation of a certain word, or trying to decipher an anagram-like sentence, before you begin to feel like shaking your fist at the tedium of it all. But that’s only on the rare bad days. Mostly editors take great pleasure in correcting punctuation and tweaking the flow of language—with each uncovered error feeling like a small personal triumph. Sadly this sense of triumph is lost on many of our peers. I have been known to point out errors in restaurant menus when dining with friends, proudly indicating where a double space has accidentally been inserted between words, or an apostrophe has been misplaced—which completely changes the meaning of the word, or so I try and explain to my completely disinterested dinner guests. A long silence usually ensues, with conversation struggling to recover from the blow I have apparently just dealt it. Perhaps such details may seem trivial to many but that is exactly why editors are so important. If we didn’t lie awake pondering the great mysteries and complexities of language, then who would?

The saying, ‘Behind every great man, there is a great woman’, applies in equal measure to authors and their editors. Next to a pen and paper (or a laptop rather), an editor is oftentimes an author’s most valuable tool. Editors are the mechanics of language—undervalued linguaphiles whose mission in life is to add oil to creaky joints and bring a body of text to life.

- Bridgette, Editor

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