Working with copyeditors
As solitary a vocation as editing can be, collaboration is nonetheless crucial. Exchanging ideas and perspectives can enrich all parties. I’ve learned a great deal over the years, from older and younger colleagues, and I’ve tried to share that institutional knowledge, along with my own understanding of linguistics, as my career has rolled out.
I’ve worked in newspapers and in online communications, the latter covering the corporate sector. They are strikingly different entities.
In both cases, though, linguistic structure must be sound. Imagine you’re constructing a building; regardless of its purpose or aesthetics, the foundation must be solid, or it will collapse. That’s every bit as true for a piece of writing. Editors, to further the analogy, are building inspectors.
Diversity and inclusion
This movement must be much, much more than meeting quotas for an annual report. Beyond the moral and ethical reasons for hiring a diverse workforce, there is a pragmatic element that many companies might overlook: It’s smart to do so.
A more inclusive workforce — at all levels of an organization — is a stronger workforce. In the communications field, it’s essential.
It’s a grave mistake to shun or dismiss alternative takes on any given subject, and certainly perspectives on text that represents the company in the public sphere. An opposing or diagonal perspective can save you. What’s perfectly fine within one group or culture can prove offensive, even damaging, in another. I mentioned the importance of institutional knowledge earlier; that’s something to cultivate.
An organization would do well to set up a subject index on its intranet (or other internal hub) in which employees can offer their fields of relative expertise. It could be cultural (hip-hop to classical, 1960s sitcoms to Spike Lee movies), linguistic (Esperanto to Cantonese to Chaucer’s English), life-experience related (Iraq war vets to knitters to weekend stand-up comics), and so on.
Ultimately, it’s about getting it right for your audience, business partners, or customer base — and, above all, not getting it wrong.
What makes a good copyeditor
Command of the language, of course, is essential, as is a solid knowledge of punctuation.
I stress six Cs. Good writing should be:
Beyond that, an editor should serve the reader’s interest first and foremost. When that happens, it serves the writer well, too. An important part of that is respecting the reader’s time. Streamline text whenever possible.
Double-check everything. Consult with others, as I mentioned above, divining connotation as well as denotation. To root out ambiguity, try to misread every passage.
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