The Editor: A vital role barely talked about

One of the most crucial roles in the domain of manuscript publishing is that of the editor. While a manuscript undergoes a series of steps that finally leads to its publication in a journal of the author’s choice, editing is the first stage that breathes life into a raw document. An editor polishes the knowledge and skills of a writer and even supplements the manuscript with new material that a writer might not have, might not know how to use, or fail to see its relevance in the work. In short, an editor assembles the pieces of a manuscript to create a fascinating and appealing picture that the readers will want to explore in depth.

  • A writer can employ specific services and specialist editors; the choice depends on the stage in which the manuscript is in the publishing cycle:
  • A structural or stylist editor gives shape and expression to the work.
  • A proofreading editor examines and corrects the spelling, punctuation, and grammatical elements of the work.
  • A copyeditor typically reads the text and checks it for sense, clarity, and grammatical accuracy, and conformity with the guidelines provided by the writer.
  • A manuscript editor focuses on the structure and flow of the work as a whole.

An editor serves the project, the author, and the reader. Therefore an editor should preferably be a native English speaker or someone who is very well-versed with the nuances of the language. One of the primary functions of an editor is to correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation and simultaneously be aware of the target journal guidelines. It is essential for an editor to maintain consistency and logic (ensuring the need of the target audience), and verify headings, statistics, graphs, and footnote entries. An editor captures the writer’s voice and sensibilities and presents the work in the best possible manner to meet the expectations of the audience. All in all, an editor balances the writer’s intent with the publisher’s standards and the reader’s expectations and finds a way to satisfy all three requisites.

Editors are sticklers for perfection. They have a great eye for detail, a strong vocabulary, and in-depth knowledge of grammar rules and conventions. Language is their forte and they are aware of its impact and significance. Hence, it becomes imperative to know the background and credentials of the editor you are entrusting your work to. Requesting testimonies and work samples is a good approach to know more about the editor and make an informed choice. By researching and being clear on the expectations and outcomes, one can be in control and convey the right message to the editor to ensure that the manuscript reaches its apt destination. A great editor is ideally supposed to make the journey toward publication a pleasurable one. Conversely, a poor editor will have an adverse effect both on the quality and the time taken to see the project reach a logical conclusion.

As Stephen King rightly put it, “To write is human, to edit is divine.”

Writing Clearly

It is not enough to write so that you can be understood; you must write so clearly that you cannot be misunderstood. Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the readers are unable to understand what you have written, then there’s no point in writing something at all. Innovative ideas are rendered insignificant when they are not expressed clearly. If you want to effectively communicate your ideas to your readers, your writing must have clarity. The more precise and concise your writing is, the clearer it will be. You need to know exactly what you want to communicate and to whom, and choose relevant information to convey your thoughts. A few tips to help you out are as follows:

First decide your target readers. Then, plan out what exactly they require to know. Give them what they want: nothing less, nothing more.  In that way, you can get rid of unnecessary data that affect the clarity of your writing.

Decide what approach you need to adopt for writing (formal, informal, academic, dramatic, casual, etc.). You should not use mixed approaches/styles, which will add to the confusion of the reader.

Do not deviate from the main subject matter. A totally different and unrelated subject will make your writing useless.

Break-up long sentences if they contain more than one piece of information. Sentences that contain one piece of information are easier to grasp in one reading.

Do not use unnecessary jargons. It might make your writing appear brilliant; but, your readers cannot understand even a bit of it. Write in simple English, which everyone can understand.

Use proper headings and number/bullet lists wherever needed. It will help the reader to easily understand what the topic or section is about.

Ensure that your writing is grammatically intact. Check spellings, punctuation, etc. Then ask someone to go through it once.

The Revising Process

The process of revising involves a series of steps, basically following the ARRR (adding, rearranging, removing, and replacing) method. In each step, the writer considers a set of questions from general to specific concerns:

  • Is the document complete?
  • Is all necessary information included?
  • Is the question answered adequately that you had set out to answer?
  • Is the hypothesis tested?
  • Have readers understood your main points and their pertinence?
  • Is the overall look of the document attractive and compelling?

After checking of the organisation of the document, ordering the given information and reorganising paragraphs is important. In addition to the logical sequencing of information, a conventional sequencing, depending on the type of document that you are writing is also important. A thorough grammar check is also important at this step. Check all paragraphs for unity and cohesion. Also, check if you have included all relevant information.

Finally, proofread the entire document for word choice, punctuation, spelling grammar and logical flow. Avoid any unnecessary repetition or wordiness for a clear, correct and concise document.

Tips to proofread your own work

  1. Don’t proofread until you’re completely finished with the actual writing and editing. If you make major changes while proofreading, even if it’s just within sentences, you’re still in an artistic, creative mode, not a science mode.
  2. Make sure you have no distractions or potential interruptions. Shut down all email and social media, hide the cell phone, shut off the TV, radio, or music, and close the door. Print your document if you need to get away from the computer altogether.
  3. Forget the content or story. Analyze sentence by sentence; don’t read in your usual way. Focus on spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Work backwards, if that helps, or say the words and sentences out loud. Concentrate.
  4. Make several passes for different types of errors. Try checking spelling and end punctuation on one pass, grammar and internal punctuation on another, and links or format on yet another pass. Develop a system.
  5. Take notes. If you notice format issues while checking spelling or if you need to look something up, make a quick note and come back to it so you don’t lose your focus.
  6. If you do make a last-minute change to a few words, be sure to check the entire sentence or even paragraph over again. Many errors are the result of changes made without adjusting other, related words.
  7. Check facts, dates, quotes, tables, references, text boxes, and anything repetitive or outside of the main text separately. Focus on one element or several related aspects of your writing at a time.
  8. Monitor yourself. If you find yourself drifting off and thinking about something else, go back over that section again. Try slapping your hand or tapping a foot in a rhythm as you examine each word and sentence out loud.
  9. Get familiar with your frequent mistakes. Even the most experienced writer mixes up their, they’re, and there or too, two, and to.

Check format last. Every document has format, even an email, whether it’s paragraph spacing, text wrap, indentations, spaces above and below a bullet list or between subheadings and text, and so on. Leave this for the end because contents may shift during handling.

Principles of good writing

Experiences in school leave some people with the impression that good writing simply means writing that contains no bad mistakes – that is, no errors of grammar, punctuation, or spelling. In fact, good writing is much more than just correct writing. It’s writing that responds to the interests and needs of our readers.

Briefly, here are the basic characteristics of good, effective writing:

  • Good writing has a clearly defined purpose.
  • It makes a clear point.
  • It supports that point with specific information.
  • The information is clearly connected and arranged.
  • The words are appropriate, and the sentences are clear, concise, emphatic, and correct.

Good writing is the result of much practice and hard work. This fact should encourage you: it means that the ability to write well is not a gift that some people are born with, not a privilege extended to only a few. If you’re willing to work, you can improve your writing.

Commas

Comma usage is one of the most complex, and most misunderstood, questions of proper punctuation. In some cases there are widely accepted rules governing comma usage; in a few cases, there is more than one acceptable approach. Students often think it’s silly to worry about things such as punctuation: after all, isn’t the legal analysis what really counts? However, when one applies for a job or submits written work to a supervisor, nothing will leave a more negative impression than ignorance of the basic rules of punctuation.

  • When you begin a sentence with a phrase or dependent clause to introduce a subsequent independent clause, separate the clauses with a comma.
  • Use commas to set off a nonrestrictive clause in the middle of a sentence, but not to set off a restrictive clause.
  • Use two commas to set off an appositive or an aside in the midst of a sentence.
  • Use two commas, not one, to set off a nonrestrictive clause in the middle of a sentence.
  • Place a comma after a transitional word that introduces a sentence.
  • When using commas to separate items in a list, place a comma before the conjunction that precedes the last separate item in the list, unless that last item is a compound term.
  • Use a comma to separate two adjectives that modify the same noun, but do not use a comma if the first of two adjectives modifies the second adjective, but not the noun.
  • Do not use a comma to replace the word “that.”
  • Do not use a comma to separate the parts of a double predicate, unless the sentence would be confusing without it, or the second part of the double predicate requires special emphasis.
  • When joining two independent clauses with a conjunction, place a comma before the conjunction. Conjunctions include the words “and,” “but,” “or,” “nor,” and “yet.”
  • Generally, use a comma before “which” but not before “that.”
  • Place commas inside, not outside, quotation marks.
  • Use two commas when setting off dates and places.

Full stop – how to use them

Definition

The full stop is a punctuation mark indicating a strong pause. It is used most commonly at the end of a complete sentence like this one.

Examples

  • This is a short sentence. This is another.
  • It happened suddenly in 1996.
  • There are two reasons for this (in my opinion).

Use

The full stop is the strongest mark of punctuation. It is sometimes called the period.

Punctuation is used to create sense, clarity and stress in sentences.

You use punctuation marks to structure and organise your writing. The most common of these are the period (or full stop in British English), the comma, the exclamation mark, the question mark, the colon and semi-colon, the quote, the apostrophe, the hyphen and dash, and parentheses and brackets. Capital letters are also used to help us organise meaning and to structure the sense of our writing.

You can quickly see why punctuation is important if you try and read this sentence which has no punctuation at all:

perhaps you don’t always need to use commas periods colons etc to make sentences clear when i am in a hurry tired cold lazy or angry i sometimes leave out punctuation marks grammar is stupid i can write without it and don’t need it my uncle Harry once said he was not very clever and i never understood a word he wrote to me i think ill learn some punctuation not too much enough to write to Uncle Harry he needs some help

Now let’s see if punctuating it makes a difference!

Perhaps you don’t always need to use commas, periods, colons etc. to make sentences clear. When I am in a hurry, tired, cold, lazy, or angry I sometimes leave out punctuation marks.

 

“Grammar is stupid! I can write without it and don’t need it.” my uncle Harry once said. He was not very clever and I never understood a word he wrote to me. I think I’ll learn some punctuation – not too much, enough to write to Uncle Harry. He needs some help!

Use of punctuation marks makes your English clearer and better organised.

Grammar

Grammar is a subject too complex to be summarized here.  Poor grammar may do nothing worse than irritating your readers.  Sometimes, however, poor grammar can make your writing confusing or impossible to understand.

Be careful with spelling, and especially with homonyms (words which sound the same but are spelled differently).  You may have correctly spelled a word that you didn’t mean to use.  “Joe is a little horse” is a very different statement from “Joe is a little hoarse.”

Incorrect punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence.  “My brother’s money” belongs to my brother, but “my brothers’ money” belongs to my brothers.  A misplaced comma can turn one modifier into two different modifiers.  “He arrived for his appointment, late yesterday afternoon,” suggests that he arrived on time for an appointment in the late afternoon.  “He arrived for his appointment late, yesterday afternoon,” suggests that he was late for his appointment.

Failure to understand the parts of speech can also cause confusion.  If, instead of “I feel bad,” you write, “I feel badly,” it sounds as if you are not very good at feeling.