Tag Archives: editing

We all speak the same language – or do we?

If you think that editing gets complex as you have to keep track of individual “house styles” versus APA or MLA Style, versus Chicago Style, and so on — imagine adding another layer to the complexity as you need to keep track of Canadian English versus American English, versus British and even Australian.

You may not be dealing with differences in pronunciation, since you’re editing words on the page, but there are plenty of alternate spellings to keep track of, and even alternate words for the same thing.

Most people are aware of the “-our” words in Canada and Britain (flavour, saviour, behaviour, and so on) compared to the American versions (flavor, savior, behavior). But there are many more differences than that.

For example, think of the American lyrics, “I’ve been working on the railroad, all the livelong day.” Do you realize that in Canada you’d technically need to sing, “I’ve been working on the railway”? And as a Canadian, I remember driving in the U.S. and asking a gas station attendant if I could use the “washroom,” and getting a blank look. In most places I’ve visited in that country, they don’t use that word, but say it right out: “bathroom.” If I’d been in Britain, I might have had to use “toilet,” and in Australia, “comfort station.”

This is why, if you’re going to be editing materials from other English-speaking countries — which is more and more likely in the internet age — it’s very important to use the right dictionaries. You may have to amass quite a collection. And since even dictionaries from the same country will vary to some degree, you’ll want to establish ahead of time, with your client, which one is going to be the standard for the project.

The same thing will likely apply to style guides, and you’ll need to investigate whether, say, the Chicago Manual could properly be applied to a manuscript you receive from Australia. If your client wants you to conform to a guide that reflects Australian style, you’ll need to get some sort of access to that guide.

We may all be able to read each other’s books and other writings, because we all still do speak the same language. But these regional and national differences in grammar and spelling (and even, in some cases, punctuation) are very real. And we’ll ignore them at our peril.

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Filed under * Editing choices, * Style tips

Welcome to the world of words!

This blog is going to be about two things: writing and editing. I’m both a writer and an editor, though most of my day-to-day work involves the editing side of words. But I think people can always benefit from hearing tips from both sides.

My first comment, though, is for writers – about editors. And the question is: why does anyone need an editor to begin with?

Every writer who’s been at it for any length of time knows one thing: we love our words. And we are really reluctant to change them once we’ve got them down. As far as we’re concerned, they’re perfect.

But experienced writers also know another thing: let our work sit for a few weeks and come back to it, and we suddenly discover a million flaws, and might even cringe to think that someone might have read this drivel if we  hadn’t kept it under wraps.

What happened in the interim? We achieved some distance from the work, and were able to look at it more objectively. And once we did that, we were capable of seeing what parts still needed work, and what parts really were pearls of perfection all those weeks ago.

If you’re writing just for your own entertainment, or you have the luxury of waiting weeks or months between writing something and then trying to get it published or made public, you might be able to do without an editor.

But if you want to shorten that time and get an objective assessment – you need an editor. In fact, if you want an assessment from someone who is not just objective but is trained to make writing flow and read clearly – you definitely need an editor.

Because none of us ever quite gets over being in love with our own words. So we’re always limited in just how objective we an be. If your goal is to write for other people in some capacity – you need an editor.

So – hi! That would be me.

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Filed under * Why edit?