When I was considering becoming an editor at the end of highschool, no one told me just how it would be to edit someone else’s work. I knew that things were going to be weird. I was going to be looking at and ‘correcting’ someone else’s work. It was going to be weird to look at a personal piece and try to change it.
That’s still a really weird part of editing now, but it’s only gotten more complicated.
No one tells you until you start looking into editing that you’re going to have to become a master of disguise when you decide that you want to be an editor. Editing is a lot of working with a voice and trying to make it stronger. It isn’t the job of the editor to just fix of technical errors. I mean that’s a main part of it, but it’s also about helping fit together a piece so that it makes a little more sense.
I work as an editor for Odyssey Online right now and I’ve never felt more like a chameleon than when I start working on editing those documents. I sit down with five to ten documents and really try to turn into someone else. I don’t let my personal opinions get in the way of what I’m doing. I sit down and look at the work and pretend for a little while that I am the writer.
I fix obvious formatting mistakes, but then I have to go through and sentence by sentence work through what it is that the author is saying and what I suspect that they’re trying to say. Some people take a relaxed tone with their writing and others decide to be very formal. All those differences have to stay in there. It isn’t my place to change that kind of tone or style.
Unfortunately, as one of four editors, I’m not sure how many of my fellow editors are really paying attention to that detail. I’ve looked at my article days after it gets published just to realize that someone has changed my title and twisted a few sentences to alter the meaning that I intended.
And it’s the worst feeling in the world. because at that point, I start thinking that my writing just isn’t good enough. I start thinking that maybe I’m doing everything wrong. And that’s not how I should feel after I’ve been edited.
So for anyone looking to edit things, remember that someone already wrote the piece. You should be looking to improve it and make it the best possible thing.