The work of an editor is possibly the most convoluted in the process of publication and is perceptible to change with each manuscript. The scope of editing alters in each manuscript according to its need. With that in mind, here is a list of the five signs of good editing:
- Flexibility and Scope of Transformation:
An editor has to always keep in mind that there is no set rule in the style of editing, except the general grammatical form that depends on the house style of the organization. With that in mind, an editor has to assimilate the kind of editing that a particular manuscript requires once the first read-through has been completed. Some manuscripts need an intense stage of content and copy editing, while some others can be published by a cursory copy edit and then a single proofreading. An editor needs to have the foresight to judge which manuscript needs which method and should be flexible enough to conform to each kind of editing.
- A Keen Eye on the Language and Grammar:
An editor should be well equipped with a keen sense of observing grammatical errors and studying the formation of sentences in order to present it with the utmost clarity.
- Maintaining Style Sheets:
Maintaining a style sheet that jots down all the idiosyncrasies of a manuscript, viz. italicization, meanings of certain words when given in brackets, references, footnotes etc, aside from the general edits of a manuscript is an essential aspect of good editing. This is because what is done in the copy editing stage should be conveyed systematically to the proofreader so that all the changes can be incorporated in the final print. This is especially required for non-fiction projects.
- Extensive Research on the Subject of the Manuscript:
Editing is a multi-faceted job which requires extensive research and reading on the subject matter of the manuscript. This is mandatory for technical editing (research papers, projects, theses etc) and editing non-fiction manuscripts. Even in the case of handling fiction, an editor must have a sound knowledge on the background of the genre viz. romance, thriller, murder mystery, drama etc. A good background idea on the subject helps to control the tendency of editing redundantly and maintaining the author’s style of writing as well. Esoteric genres like surrealism etc. need better references for explanation of sections, footnotes and other bibliographic additions, if and when required. On that note, an editor’s most important quality should be to productively gather substantial information with references to the subject matter and then presenting it in the most systematic manner possible. For that, an editor should be adept at handling both systems of bibliography (Author–Date and Short Reference systems), writing well presented notes, footnotes, references and indexes. Indexers are available for the purpose of making and sorting out indexes, however, the editor should have the required knowledge to see the efficiency of the index made and its incorporation to the final draft.
- Communication With the Author:
The most dynamic characteristic of good editing, and an everlasting quality of a good editor too, is thorough and constant communication between the author and the editor. The editor is to have a thorough understanding of the psyche of the author and the subjects, messages etc. that the author wishes to convey to the readers. In no case should the handling of the manuscript lead to changes in this ideal. The manuscript is purely based on the author’s voice alone and therefore it is advised that an editor maintain a scrupulous but impersonal outlook towards editing. Remember, the job of the editor is to give the spotlight to the author and the best form of editing is the one which is invisible.
I hope this gives all the promising editors out there who are reading this post a substantial idea about the fundamental factors of good editing.
For more information regarding the concepts and scope of editing, keep an eye on the BEE Books blog.
I am Sugandha Bandyopadhyay.
I am the in-house editor of BEE Books and when I am not busily reading and editing manuscripts, I spend my time reading almost any decent book that I can get my greedy hands on, cuddling my adorable beagle Scrat (or any other dog, stray or otherwise, for that matter) and drinking generous ounces of roadside tea at Calcutta. My current favourite authors are Haruki Murakami, Italo Calvino and Neil Gaiman.
When the muse does strike, I do write little ramblings and poetry about anything under the sun. You can read them at The Indian Bibliophile.
You can find me at Instagram as The Indian Bibliophile where I post pictures of dogs, books and all the madness I take part in this beautiful city of joy and you can like and follow me in my Facebook page, The Indian Bibliophile, in this link: https://www.facebook.com/theindianbibliophile/
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