Herbert Rosengarten—The tyranny of the copytext: the trials and tribulations of textual editing (Editors BC meeting)

Herbert Rosengarten is a professor emeritus and former head of UBC’s English department. A textual editor and authority on the work of the Brontës, he contributed to The Oxford Companion to the Brontës and co-compiled the entry on the Brontës in The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. Rosengarten spoke at a recent Editors BC meeting about textual criticism and scholarly editing.

Textual editors study the creation of a literary work from manuscript to print and through its various editions. They also supplement the text with annotations, translations, and explanations of allusions or quotations that the reader might not be familiar with. “The goal is to present all the information a person needs to understand and interpret the work,” said Rosengarten.

The task begins with selecting the copytext—the version of the text the textual editor believes “best represents what the author wants the reader to see.” This seemingly simple decision is not so straightforward when the author’s not alive to consult. The textual editor has to make some educated assumptions, and a poor choice of copytext can derail the work of literary critics.

Typically, textual editors will choose among these options:

  • the original manuscript, if available, which is considered the ultimate authority (though should it be?),
  • the first printed edition, which usually involves authorial input and is closest to the manuscript,
  • the last edition printed in the author’s lifetime, or
  • an edition known to have had special authorial involvement. (Scholars know, for example, that Charles Dickens paid particular attention to the 1846 edition of Oliver Twist.)

“All of them have their claim to authority,” said Rosengarten. But “every printed text has its own problems: inconsistencies in punctuation, spelling, word order—or the author’s meaning has been changed.” A printed book from the nineteenth century and earlier “is the product of a collaboration: authors, agents, compositors, proofreaders, binders, critics, booksellers, and libraries,” among others. The textual editor’s job is to know which text to choose, to weed out errors, and to understand the forces acting on the text. The goal is to act on the author’s behalf. “Don’t substitute your own judgment for the author’s,” said Rosengarten. Readers can also influence how a text is composed and transmitted over time: for example, Dickens changed the ending of Great Expectations based on input from readers and critics.

Textual editors have to track the changes—both macro and micro—of a work and evaluate whether changes are errors or what the author intended. Sometimes this is obvious, as in the infamous Wicked Bible of 1631, which left a crucial word out of the Ten Commandments:

1266

Evaluating other types of changes requires careful judgment. In the world of literary criticism, you have to be able to justify your choices. Were the changes consistent with the author’s other changes? Do they make sense?

In the days of manual typesetting, compositional errors could easily accumulate. Rosengarten gave the example from the first four editions of Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, first published in 1742:

  1. “No,” said the Poet, “you and the whole Town know I had Enemies.”
  2. “No,” said the Poet, “you and the whole Town had Enemies.”
  3. “No,” said the Poet, “you and the whole Town were enemies.”
  4. “No,” said the Poet, “you and the whole Town were my enemies.”

Larger errors, such as omission or misplacement of material, could also be widely perpetuated, because new editions tend to be based on the most recent editions. Two chapters had been transposed in the US edition of Henry James’s Ambassadors (1903), for example, and this error persisted until 1950. Another example was Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Chapter 1 begins

You must go back with me to the autumn of 1827.

My father, as you know, was a sort of gentleman farmer in —shire; and I, by his express desire, succeeded him in the same quiet occupation…

That’s how the 1948 edition of the book opened, and one might assume that the you is the author addressing the reader. Only in the 1920s or ’30s did scholars discover that this edition, and each one after it, which copied it, was missing a prefatory letter, which begins

Dear Halford,

When we were together last, you gave me a very particular and interesting account of the most remarkable occurrences of your early life…

The you in Chapter 1, in fact, is the Halford being addressed in the letter.

These changes were accidental, but other changes were the result of deliberate editorial intervention, such as Thomas Bowlder’s Family Shakespeare. An excerpt from the Bowdlerized King Lear (Act 3, Scene 4) seems fine on its own…

Lear. What hast thou been?

Edgar. A servingman, proud in heart and mind, that curled my hair, wore gloves in my cap, swore as many oaths as I spake words and broke them in the sweet face of heaven. Wine loved I deeply, dice dearly. False of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey. Let not the creaking of shoes nor the rustling of silks betray thy poor heart to woman. Keep thy pen from lenders’ books, and defy the foul fiend….

…until you see what he’d cut:

Lear. What hast thou been?

Edgar. A servingman, proud in heart and mind, that curled my hair, wore gloves in my cap, served the lust of my mistress’ heart and did the act of darkness with her, swore as many oaths as I spake words and broke them in the sweet face of heaven; one that slept in the contriving of lust and waked to do it. Wine loved I deeply, dice dearly, and in woman out-paramoured the Turk. False of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey. Let not the creaking of shoes nor the rustling of silks betray thy poor heart to woman. Keep thy foot out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets, thy pen from lenders’ books, and defy the foul fiend…

We would be aghast today with such an adulteration of a classic work, but, as Rosengarten pointed out, Bowdler was meeting a need: he “created Shakespeare that was widely read,” as, at that time, reading aloud was a family activity.

After D.H. Lawrence wrote Sons and Lovers, editor Edward Garnett made 88 substantive cuts (which, in Rosengarten’s opinion, improved the text) before the first edition was published. Cambridge University Press restored the cut passages in its 1992 edition of Lawrence’s book. Not all scholars agree the cuts should have been restored. Lawrence seemed happy enough with Garnett’s work to have told him, “You did the pruning jolly well,” and dedicating the book to him. It’s interesting the weight we ascribe to manuscripts of classic literary works; any book editor who works with living authors today knows at least a few writers who would be mortified to have a raw, unedited draft made publicly available.

Yet, said Rosengarten, that’s what makes the work of textual editing so fascinating. It can be quite pedantic and tedious—“You are counting syllables. You often don’t read what you’re reading. Sometimes studying text upside down.”—but by working with original manuscripts, you get to see what the reader has not seen before.

I asked Rosengarten what technological tools he uses to identify and track the changes to a text, and he told me about the Hinman collator, which uses mirrors to superimpose two pages. Switch quickly between the two views and any differences appear to flash. Today this kind of collation can be handled digitally through tools like Juxta. Rosengarten’s talk, with its focus on showing the reader what the author intended they see, also made me wonder about the controversy surrounding Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Was that the book she wanted us all to read? This case shows how fraught that question can be even when the author is still alive.

Editing global English (Editors BC meeting)

Robin-Eliece Mercury is an editor and applied linguist who taught composition in Japan and the Czech Republic. At the November Editors BC meeting she moderated a panel discussion about the particular challenges and considerations when editing authors who are not native English speakers. On the panel were

  • Glauce Fleury, a freelance writer and communications specialist based in Vancouver. Previously she worked as a journalist in her home country of Portuguese-speaking Brazil.
  • Carol Zhong, who has taught English and edited in Canada and abroad, including in China and Hong Kong, and now specializes in academic work.
  • Joel Heng Hartse, an applied linguist who lectures in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University.

Mercury framed the discussion by asking us to think about whether our national association has role to play in creating guidelines, strategies, or tools to help editors approach this kind of editing. “All of us have our personal preferences or policies when editing copy from a non-native speaker of English,” she said. “How can be aware of and sensitive to non-native speakers of English” while meeting the expectations of those who publish and read their work?

Heng Hartse began by pointing out that he’s the only non-editor on the panel, although the work of academics and editors does overlap a lot. His research interests are in the globalization of English and World Englishes. “The pluralization is very intentional,” said Heng Hartse. “It’s ideologically purposeful. We want to emphasize the pluricentricity of English. English is increasingly not the sole possession of a single people, nation, or cultural group.”

Just as we wouldn’t say that a Canadian speaks worse English than an Australian, we can apply the same attitude toward those who speak Singapore English or Indian English, for example. World Englishes “recognizes each variety as legitimate and having its own norms,” said Heng Hartse, which can lead to some interesting controversies. We are seeing more situations in which writer, editor, and audience are working with different norms.

“What responsibility do individual editors have to learn about World Englishes and their role in the global context?” Mercury asked Zhong.

“It’s like any other aspect of professional development,” said Zhong. “We need to become familiar with what they are, in what context they’re used, how we can best serve writers and their audience—with sensitivity.” Ultimately, we have to make sure that the document’s readable. “Other academics all over the world have to understand what someone in Singapore has written.”

Fleury wanted editors to understand that “nonstandard is not a mistake. The challenge is to understand what is standard for the audience.”

Zhong says that tries as much as she can to maintain an expert’s voice and style, but context is important. Sometimes authors will write a term or word that they’ve heard somewhere but haven’t used in the right way. Her example was an author’s use of “significant others” to refer to other important people. She explained how that term is usually used and suggested other possibilities that might be clearer to the reader.

Zhong also adjusts her level of editing depending on the purpose of the document. “I edit course material for the Open University of Hong Kong,” she said. “It takes place the place of a lecture, so it has to be accessible to the students. And it has a certain degree of informality that you don’t get in a journal article. So I edit more intrusively: students have to understand the material without the instructor.”

“I query a lot,” said Zhong. “You have to be as clear as possible and always give options. ‘Did you mean X, or did you mean Y? If you meant X, you’ll need a comma here. If you meant Y, maybe you could say it this way.’”

“Is it fair for editors to assume that non-native speakers of English need extensive editing?” Mercury asked Fleury.

“No, it’s not,” she said. “You will find native speakers who are working as writers and need extensive editing. It’s not a problem of second-language speakers or writers. It’s a misconception that second-language writers are not good writers that will give more trouble than pleasure to editors.” Those who are serious about a language, Fleury said, will never stop studying it. “If you can choose, just work with the right writers.”

“How can we edit with a sensitivity to authors who are non-native speakers of English, when standard English is expected?” Mercury asked Heng Hartse.

“The first thing is not to assuming a non-native speaker has a deficit compared with a native speaker,” he said. “There are many ‘literacy brokers’ between author and publication.” The process could involve many people—family members, colleagues, editors—“all of us making contributions to the text.”

“Approach their work in an open-minded way,” said Heng Hartse. “We need to step back and be reflexive about our perceptions. Build an ethic for yourself of continually asking—What is style? What is grammar? What is just a pet peeve? It’s incumbent on us to develop a way of dealing with other people’s text that respect them, while bringing our expertise.”

“What’s your approach in getting agreement with you and the author in terms of how far you would edit the text stylistically?” Mercury asked Zhong.

“Authors normally tell me what they want me to do,” she said. Some authors want her to focus only on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. “If you have any questions, ask. Don’t go ahead and make changes.”

Heng Hartse warned us to be aware of “rules” that are actually a product of folk linguistics—like “don’t end a sentence with a preposition.” “None of us are immune to the ideological dimension of making language choices,” he said. “That’s where we have to be careful.”

Mercury asked Fleury if she’s encountered editors’ prejudices as a writer whose first language isn’t English.

“Sometimes an editor will say, ‘Oh, this is good!’ Was there a prejudice or an expectation that it wouldn’t be good? There’s a misconception that native speakers are better writers in that language and that non-native speakers wouldn’t be good writers and would need a lot of work. That’s behind why people are surprised.”

“I’m aware of my weaknesses and strengths,” said Fleury. “I wouldn’t submit anything as a final product if it’s not good enough. If I don’t think I have the skills to write about a specific topic, I will refer a friend.”

“My two prejudices,” said Heng Hartse, “are that (1) I’m right, and (2) I understand what the writer means.”—and it’s important to check these, he said.

Mercury asked the audience if it would be helpful for an organization like Editors Canada to synthesize some of the considerations we’d discussed into guidelines to help the growing number of editors working with non-native speakers of English.

Ruth Wilson responded: “I haven’t heard anything tonight that wouldn’t apply to any thoughtful, sensitive editing in any other discipline. All of the [Professional Editorial] Standards apply equally to this. We’re just opening a window to a new discipline.”

“It’s good to have an open discussion about bias,” said Wilson, but what we’re talking about isn’t a new skill set but an expansion of existing skills.”

Kyra Nabeta asked the panel if they considered it important to know the writer’s language and culture.

“It’s important to be familiar with it,” said Zhong. “I feel I have an advantage. I’m familiar with historical events, place names, expressions, people… It’s not as if you can’t learn that, but for me it’s like a shortcut, because I have that background that gives me an advantage.”

(The evening ended with a few questions about editing translations that got directed to me. For interested readers, I’ve summarized some past sessions about writing for translation, Global English, and editing books in translation. Or check out my posts under the “translation” tag.)

Steven Pinker—The thinking person’s approach to writing in the 21st century (Beyond the Red Pencil, 2015)

Experimental psycholinguist and author Steven Pinker gave the opening keynote at Beyond the Red Pencil, the Northwest Independent Editors Guild’s fifth biennial conference. His talk covered the same territory as his book The Sense of Style (which I reviewed earlier), but I still very much enjoyed hearing him speak in person.

Why is so much writing so bad, he asked, and how can we make it better?

One common theory is that bad writing is a deliberate choice by bureaucrats who use gibberish to evade responsibility or by pseudo-intellectuals who want to hide the fact that they have nothing to say. But good people can write bad prose, said Pinker. Another theory suggests that digital media are ruining the language, because we can all recall that in the 1980s, Pinker quipped, “teenagers spoke in coherent paragraphs.”

A better theory is that whereas speaking comes naturally to us, writing doesn’t. “Writing is and always has been hard,” said Pinker. “Readers are unknown, invisible, inscrutable—and exist only in our imagination.”

What can we do to improve writing, then? Some would suggest reading books like The Elements of Style, but among some good advice—such as using definite, concrete language and omitting needless words—is advice that is obsolete or downright baffling. “The problem with traditional style advice,” said Pinker, is that it’s an arbitrary list of do’s and don’ts based on the tastes and peeves of the authors.”

Instead, we should base our writing advice on the science and scholarship of modern grammatical theory, evidence-based dictionaries, cognitive science, and usage. Pinker made a case for classic style, which uses “prose as a window onto the world.” Reader and writer are equals, and the goal of the writer is to help the reader see objective realities. “The focus is on the thing being shown, not the activity of studying it,” said Pinker. The latter is a feature of self-conscious style that contributes to the verbosity and turgidity of academic and bureaucratic writing.

“Classic prose is about the world, not about the conceptual tools with which we understand the world,” said Pinker, who suggested avoiding metaconcepts and nominalizations. But he urges caution on the common advice to avoid the passive voice—especially since the advice itself often uses passive voice while condemning it. “The passive could not have survived in the English language for 1500 years if it did not serve a purpose,” said Pinker. English sentences rely on word order to convey both grammatical information and content. We expect material early in the sentence to name the topic (what the reader is looking at) and later in the sentence to show the focal point (what the reader should notice). “Prose that violates these principles feels choppy and incoherent.”

So “avoid the passive” is bad advice. But why is it so common in bad writing? “Good writers narrate a story, advanced by protagonists who make things happen,” said Pinker, whereas “bad writers work backwards from their own knowledge.

Too much knowledge can be a curse: “When you know something, it’s hard to imagine what it is like for someone else not to know it.” It’s this curse of knowledge that leads to opaque writing. The traditional advice to solve this problem is to assume a reader is looking over your shoulder at what you write. “The problem with the traditional solution is that we’re not very good at guessing what’s in people’s heads just by trying hard,” said Pinker. A better approach is to show your draft to a representative reader, or “show a draft to yourself after some time has passed and it’s no longer familiar.” Rewrite several times with the single goal of making prose more accessible to the reader.

Another battleground in writing are rules of usage, but Pinker said that the “prescriptivist versus descriptivist” paradigm is a false dichotomy. Rules of usage aren’t logical truths and are not officially regulated by dictionaries, he said. They are tacit, evolving conventions. “Many supposed rules of usage violate the grammatical logic of English, are routinely flouted by the best writers, and have always been flouted by the best writers. Obeying bogus rules can make prose worse.”

How does the writer or editor distinguish real usage from those bogus rules? “Look them up!” said Pinker. “Modern dictionaries and usage manuals do not ratify pet peeves,” he said. “Their usage advice is based on evidence.”

In any case, Pinker said, “correct usage is the least important part of good writing,” compared with a conversational classical style, a coherent ordering of ideas, factual accuracy, and sound argumentation.

Editors Canada: update on national happenings (Editors BC meeting)

Margaret Shaw, Editors Canada’s regional director of Western Canada’s branches and twigs, attended her first meeting as a member of the National Executive Council (NEC) in September, and at yesterday’s BC branch meeting she gave us a rundown of some of our association’s plans to increase the value of membership and more actively engage members. Here are some highlights:

Communications

  • Editors Canada plans to launch its rebranded website later this year and is looking for volunteers to beta test.
  • The association held its first monthly Twitter chat about certification in October, and the topic for November will be finding work and networking. Join in on November 3 at 4 pm PST and follow along with the #EditorsChat hashtag.
  • A private Facebook group has been set up for Editors Canada members.
  • The committee that publishes our magazine, Active Voice, hopes to create a hard copy in April and possibly another in September or October.

Professional development

  • A task force has been struck to develop a national mentoring program, modelled on the Toronto branch’s successful program and named in honour of the late John Eerkes-Medrano.
  • Editors Canada hopes to start offering webinars (three in the year ahead) so that members living outside of Canada’s major centres will have more professional development opportunities.
  • A central repository of professional development ideas has been proposed.
  • Editors Canada launched the third edition Editing Canadian English this past year, along with the companion Editorial Niches volume. Members at yesterday’s meeting suggested having Editors Canada publications available for sale at local branch meetings and seminars.

Member support

  • In the works is a welcome package for new members and a toolkit to support new branches and twigs.
  • A membership survey is planned for the spring, and exit surveys are planned to find out why people who don’t renew their memberships choose to leave the organization.
  • The Online Director of Editors now has its own direct link: findaneditor.ca
  • The national job board will be revamped. Once it is relaunched, employers and clients will no longer have to pay to post a job.
  • Student affiliates will have a new committee to champion student issues.
  • The Standard Freelance Editorial Agreement is being updated.
  • The NEC is also aware of—and aims to solve—server problems affecting affected people with editors.ca addresses.

Standards and certification

Vacancies on committees

Volunteering allows you to build network with colleagues across the country and add skills to your CV. Editors Canada is seeking volunteers for the following committees:

  • nominations committee
  • member services committee
  • communications and marketing committee
  • publications committee
  • standards task force
  • awards committee

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At the next NEC meeting, planned for November in Ottawa, the executive will take the first steps to draft a new five-year strategic plan. The plan we have now will expire in 2016–2017.

Self-publishing and the oft-neglected index

For some of my editorial colleagues, working with self-publishers is their bread and butter. Many of these editors become de facto project managers, capably shepherding each book through its editorial and production phases—and sometimes even helping with sales and marketing campaigns. Yet, they often forget about the index, even though it can help an author’s work gain credibility and longevity.

I’ve worked on a handful of self-published projects managed by others. In one, the designer asked the author if he wanted an index, but by that point, he didn’t have room in his schedule to add one. In another project, a corporate history, the client couldn’t afford to add pages at the proofreading stage but may have been able to make it work had an index been brought up earlier. In a third project, the designer suggested adding an index when she was hired, and the client agreed. The client says now that her book wouldn’t have been complete without it.

A back-of-the-book index is usually one of the last things that get done in a book project, so I can understand how it can become an afterthought, but I’d love to see editors and project managers consider indexes earlier on, as they develop a project with a client. Most nonfiction works would benefit from an index: corporate and family histories, memoirs, and biographies should have a proper noun index at least, and indexes are a must for cookbooks and how-to books.

Hiring an indexer (and adding pages to accommodate an index in a print book) will add to the budget, but here’s how you can sell it to your clients:

  1. An index will increase a book’s credibility. As much as we like to say that self-published books aren’t any less legitimate than conventionally published works, self-published titles that can better emulate conventionally published books are more likely to be taken seriously in the market.
  2. An index can transform a book from a one-time read to an important part of the historical record. A nonfiction book with an index is much more likely to be found and used by future researchers, including historians and genealogists. Most authors, even if their main motivation is writing a memoir for family, for example, would be delighted to think of their work as having a wide reach and long-lasting impact. (Incidentally, Canadian self-publishers compiling personal, family, or community histories may be interested in the Canada 150 project.)
  3. An index lets readers see what the book is about. It shows not only what topics are covered but also in what depth. Cross-references help readers understand the relationships between the book’s concepts.
  4. People named in the book will want to look themselves up in the index. Yup—vanity is a factor, and finding their names might be enough to convince them to buy and read the book.
  5. Indexers invariably find the odd typo or inconsistency as they work. Because of the way we read and select terms to index, we notice problems that proofreaders sometimes miss.

Ultimately, indexes help sell books. As indexer Jan Wright pointed out at an Indexing Society of Canada conference a few years ago, Amazon wouldn’t include indexes in their “Look Inside” feature if they didn’t help sales, right?

Katherine Barber—Bachelor for rent: things you never suspected about Canadian English (Editing Goes Global, 2015)

Disclaimer: I am utterly incapable of replicating Katherine Barber’s humour and delivery, but she said some important things about language that editors would find valuable, which is what I’ve summarized here. (I’d previously had the privilege of hearing her speak at the PLAIN 2013 conference.) If you ever get the opportunity to hear the Word Lady speak in person, don’t let it pass you by!

***

Katherine Barber was the editor-in-chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary when it became the first dictionary to change its definition of marriage to “the legal or religious union of two people,” in 2004. At her keynote to close Editing Goes Global, Barber, bestselling author of Only in Canada, You Say: A Treasury of Canadian Language and Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to Do with Pigs, told us she was very proud of that change. “And I can tell you—we got letters,” she said, to laughter. “We also got letters saying, ‘Thank you so much for doing this.’” This milestone shows the importance of dictionaries; they’re not just about looking something up.

Barber joked that her job as a lexicographer was easy, compared with our jobs as editors: “Lexicographers only have to write sentence fragments,” she said. “We don’t have to worry about transitions or plots or character development.” What they do have to worry about, though, is capturing the regional differences in language that can help define a culture or a nation. Canadian English is a good example: “You must not confuse Canadian English with American English,” Barber told the international crowd, “because Canadians will hate you! We’re unclear about what our identity is. One thing we’re sure of is that we’re not American. And I say that with all respect and fondness for Americans.”

Differentiating ourselves from Americans is why we stick a u in colour, for instance. Barber enjoys checking dictionaries to see if they’ve included the colour variant. In one “Webster’s” dictionary at a discount store, she didn’t find a u in colour because colo(u)r wasn’t listed at all! A lot of so-called Webster’s dictionaries aren’t legitimate—anyone can claim to have created a Webster’s dictionary. “Merriam-Webster is the real deal,” said Barber.

Merriam-Webster doesn’t always capture Canadianisms, though: its entry on toque defines the word as “a woman’s small hat without a brim made in any of various soft close-fitting shapes” and claims that the word is pronounced “toke.”

We may recognize toque as a Canadianism, but we use many terms without realizing that they’re unique to Canada (or to certain parts of Canada). What do foreigners think when they first see signs advertising “bachelor for rent”?

Barber closed with a plea that editors retain regionalisms when their meaning is clear. Huck, meaning throw, in Western Canada and jambuster, meaning jelly donut, in Manitoba are not only valuable data for lexicographers, but they add to the vibrancy of our linguistic tapestry.

 

Vanessa Ricci-Thode—Alternatives to editing: working on a self-publisher’s budget (Editing Goes Global, 2015)

What can you do for self-publishing authors who don’t have much to spend? Author and editor Vanessa Ricci-Thode shared some the strategies she’s used to help authors who can’t afford editing. Although she focused on fiction, many of her tips will apply to nonfiction projects as well.

Do a manuscript evaluation

For a flat fee, Ricci-Thode will evaluate a manuscript up to 100,000 words and provide the author with a topic-by-topic report outlining the main changes that the author should make to

  • premise
  • plot
  • structure
  • characterization
  • dialogue
  • setting
  • point of view
  • voice
  • mood or tone

She may also comment on other features, such as the story’s symbolism, humour, or reading level. Although she won’t edit the manuscript—and hence won’t mark it up—she will insert comment bubbles in the document so that authors can see examples of the kinds of problems they might  consider fixing. Ricci-Thodes suggests using a “triage editing” mindset and tackling the biggest problems first.

To learn how write a constructive evaluation, Ricchi-Thodes suggests the seminar on fiction editing offered by EAC’s Toronto Branch or Ryerson University’s fiction-editing class.

Suggest crowdfunding

If an author doesn’t have enough of their own money for editing, they could try raising enough money through crowdfunding platforms, including

Many of these platforms allow authors to connect with their readers by offering rewards for their sponsorship.

Suggest low-cost editing options (with a caveat)

If an author is desperate for editing, you could point them to low-cost editing options on freelancing sites such as Elance or even Fiverr. However, because many people claiming to be editors compete internationally for freelance contracts, these sites can be exploitative. Further, the quality of the editing will be a crapshoot.

Whatever you do, said Ricci-Thodes, don’t let an author talk you down. Don’t sell yourself—or your colleagues—short. You may be willing to reduce your rate to work on a particularly exciting project, but make sure your client knows the full value of the services you’re giving them.

Point authors to resources on writing and self-editing

For authors that need a lot of work, recommend books or websites that will help them hone their writing skills. During the session Ricci-Thodes listed the resources she recommends (her commentary in parentheses):

On craft

On style and grammar

Websites

Audience members chimed in with some of their own suggestions (in no particular order):

Also, encourage authors to join a critique group or writing circle that has experienced writers.

Offer mentoring or “mini-evaluation” sessions

Ricci-Thodes offers face-to-face meetings in which she can offer an author tips based on a short writing sample and answer specific editorial questions. She lets the clients set the agenda for the meetings, for which she charges hourly.

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For more editor-recommended, editing-related resources, check out my blog post from our September 2014 EAC-BC meeting: Hitting the books: Professional development tips.

Sam Corea and Andrew Tzembelicos—Game of words: the role of editorial services and press operations (Editing Goes Global, 2015)

What do you have to consider when editing copy for a major international sporting event? Sam Corea started off as the director of editorial services for the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and later passed the reins to Andrew Tzembelicos, whose department of four editors and one graphic designer coordinated all official Olympic- and Paralympic-related publications up to and during the games. Corea is now preparing for the press coverage he’ll have to help facilitate as the head of Press Services for the upcoming Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in Toronto. He and Tzembelicos gave us a glimpse of the fast-paced, high-pressure editorial environment characteristic of these grand events.

2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games

Tzembelicos and his team made up the editorial services department, one of 53 VANOC departments. Their job was to write or oversee the writing of all VANOC publications to make sure that the copy was on tone, on voice, and on brand. For example, VANOC represented Canada as honest, unassuming, and humble. “We’d say we’d stage stellar games,” said Tzembelicos. “We won’t say ‘best games ever’ because that sounds arrogant.” His team tried to use accessible language to reach as wide an audience as possible and kept an eye out for context-specific terminology that might confuse non-Canadians (such as references to the Juno Awards). They reviewed copy for all games departments, CEO reports, sustainability reports, medals, postage stamps, and web content. They also reviewed copy for partners (for example, the four host First Nations on whose land the games took place) and for sponsors. The sheer volume of work meant that the editorial team had to prioritize public-facing documents.

Because Tzembelicos’s team had to rely on external writers and editors, he and his team developed a booklet of writing tips, The Writer’s Playbook, that was shared throughout VANOC to encourage writing that would require less editing.

Fact checking was paramount, because the games were so easily politicized. Inaccuracies or misinterpretations could be fuel for opposition parties to attack the government.

Major challenges Tzembelicos faced included a last-minute decision to publish a 96-page hockey magazine. He also had to contend with a lot of back-and-forth communication with people who fancied themselves writers but lacked an understanding of the publishing process, although The Writer’s Playbook helped mitigate this problem. At the other extreme were VANOC members who simply didn’t care about editorial quality, but “everything is amplified when you have big international events,” said Tzembelicos. “Typos and mistakes don’t just reflect poorly on the event organizers; they reflect poorly on Canada.”

Surprisingly, his work during the games themselves was relatively quiet, because the bulk of the work had been done in advance, although he and his team did have to produce a daily newspaper for the Athletes’ Village, as required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC didn’t enforce a particular style (although the games were always referred to as “the Olympic Winter Games” and never “the Olympics”), but the individual sports federations occasionally had specific requirements (for example, in the use of ladies versus women).

2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games

In July, athletes from across the American continents will descend on Toronto for the Pan Am Games. Unlike the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, which had to produce copy in French and English, Pan Am copy must be trilingual—in English, French, and Spanish. The event will feature 7,500 athletes, making it larger than the Olympic Games hosted by both Calgary and Vancouver. For many athletes, their performance at this event is what will determine whether they qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Despite the event’s size size, the Pan Am Games don’t come with the sponsorship that comes with the Olympics, meaning Corea must coordinate communications on a smaller budget.

Corea will oversee press operations‚ including media relations, broadcast relations, and press logistics. There will be 1,900 accredited members of the press covering the games, mostly from Canada, Brazil, and the United States. Part of Corea’s job will be to coordinate the Games News Service, an international wire service that will provide the media with quotes from the athletes seconds after they leave the field of play (known as “flash quotes”), games news, and press conference highlights. Corea is aiming to have flash quotes transcribed, edited, and posted within twenty minutes. Corea’s team has also researched and compiled athlete profiles for easy press access. Corea estimates that 1.11 million words will be produced over the course of the games, with more than 740,000 from flash quotes alone.