Eva van Emden, Freelance Editor

Certified Copy Editor and Proofreader

eva@vancouvereditor.com

September 30, 2016

Editorial fingerprints

Ideally, editing is invisible. Typos are corrected, small errors of fact pointed out, plot howlers averted, and the end result is a seamless, polished work that doesn’t betray any hint of multiple minds at work. Usually when I read books that I didn’t work on, I see text that seems to have sprung fully formed out of the author’s mind, but once in a while I see, not a scar exactly, but perhaps a band-aid.

In an excellently edited, smart, well-written thriller, the protagonist releases the safety catch on his Glock. Aha! I said. The Glock doesn’t have a safety catch. But a few pages later, there’s a passing reference to the gun being “modified.” What do you think? Author’s original vision or editorial band-aid?

I laughed out loud when I came across a sentence in another book that read, “Some people say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.” I bet there was a query on that manuscript that said, “Actually, [Albert Einstein/Mother Teresa/Benjamin Franklin/Leonardo da Vinci] probably didn’t say this. This quote seems to be attributed to various people without any evidence. I’ve edited to read ‘some people say’ instead. OK?” Dubious quote provenances are the bane of fact checking.

And on rare occasions, a disagreement bursts right out into the open. On the copyright page of Garner on Language and Writing, the eight-line American Bar Association policy statement is supplemented by an exemplary plain language rewrite titled “How Bryan Garner wanted the statement to read.”

Picture of the copyright page of Garner on Language and Writing
From Garner on Language and Writing by Bryan Garner.
Or even worse:
Screen short of a publisher's note
Photo posted by @AcademiaObscura on Twitter.

It’s not about the turtle—or the elephants either

It’s been six months since Sir Terry Pratchett’s death, and I never did finish my thoughts.

I started reading him in my late teens, as I worked my way through a friend’s book collection. It took me a little while to warm up to him, but by the time I’d read Lords and Ladies, I was hooked. There is so much more there than funny footnotes, dwarf bread, and oograh.

I’ve met other Pratchett fans here and there—fellow students, the property manager of our old apartment—and every time it’s like discovering a common friend. People have their favourite characters. I’m partial to police commander Vimes in Night Watch, Thud, and Snuff, with his passionate sense of justice. But my favourite stories are the ones about the witch Granny Weatherwax with her goats, and her bees, and her herbs, who traded any possibility of normality and belonging to pursue knowledge instead.

It happens that I just read his collection of nonfiction A Slip of the Keyboard recently. Pratchett argued patiently and reasonably that people in the U.K. should be allowed to have the choice of assisted dying, and it seems that some change has come about.

Neil Gaiman on Terry Pratchett, from his wonderful introduction to Slip of the Keyboard.