Things I Learned on My Editing Course

I’ve become a bit of a course junkie lately. I see it as part of my continuous professional development. Nothing to do with the excuse they give me to eat delicious lunches in cafes and talking to human beings. Recently, the Publishing Training Centre (PTC), whose editing and proofreading courses are seen as the gold standard in the publishing industry, announced that it would be giving editing courses in Dublin. I had already done a PTC proofreading course by distance learning, and seized on the opportunity to do one of their courses in real time.

The course I chose was called Core Copy Editing Skills, and lasted for two days. It was very hands-on, with exercises designed to teach us about proofreading, layout, consistency, grammar and how to cut with a scalpel rather than a wrecking ball. During the two days, I unearthed many nuggets of knowledge. Here are three of the most precious – and they’re not what you expect.

Editors need to question everything and assume nothing.
Editors need to question everything and assume nothing.

Some grammar rules are redundant

Grammar is changing all the time, and editors need to drop their old ideas and adapt to those changes. During a grammar exercise, I learned that you no longer need to denote two people as “Harry and I.” It’s now acceptable to say “Harry and me.” It’s also now acceptable to say that you will closely supervise someone. You don’t need to separate the verb and the advert.

Make sure the page looks good

The look of the page is just as important as the quality of the writing. A well laid-out page makes a book much easier to read. This means you not only have to look for spelling and grammar errors; you also have to check that the look of the page is consistent, that the heading style and font are the same and that there’s the same amount of space between paragraphs.

Consider the impact of your changes

When you’re editing, you need to bear in mind that any change you make may completely change the meaning of a sentence, and that all the text surrounding that sentence will also be affected. You need to first ask yourself whether the sentence needs to be changed at all, and when you’re making the change, consider whether the reader will pick up a different message from the one the author intended.

In short, a good editor assumes everything and questions nothing. What do you think makes a good editor?

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A Little Word Challenge

I’ve always thought that creating a new word would be a great way to achieve immortality. Your word would appear in dictionaries for generations to come, with your name beside it as the inventor, if there were any justice in the world.

The rapid changes in technology in recent years mean that new words are needed now more than ever, to describe the new technology and the new concepts that come with it. One phenomenon that I felt deserved its own word occurs when you meet a person you’ve been chatting to quite regularly on Facebook and Twitter, only to realise you don’t know them. Cue awkward squirming and a rapid exit.

So I set a challenge to the people that I know from Facebook and Twitter, some of whom I know in real life, some not, to see if they could come up for a word which describes this phenomenon. Hopefully one of these words will make its way into the lexicon and ensure immortality for its inventors.

There was a healthy response, with a few noticeable trends in the construction of the words.

Words that combined English with French or German. Words in this category included: FacebookMenschensiewissennichtwirklich, friemd (pun on the German for fremd, or stranger), webconnu and sousreal

Words that combined two existing words and captured the paradox of social media friendships – that people who seem to be friends are actually strangers. These included: franger, strangend, facepal(m), cyberbuddy and alternet.

Words that combined existing words to describe the illusion of social media friendship. These included: sociallusion, realmeet, realreveal, sociofabulation, cyberluded and webmirage,

Some words had slightly different definitions, but were still worthy contenders, including amity-nesia (forgetting you were friends with someone on Facebook) and to e-Frame, meaning only using photoshopped pictures of yoruself online, preferably with an inspirational quote.

A few of my favourites from those lists include the monster German word FacebookMenschensiewissennichtwirklich, friemd, sociallusion and franger.

Which word do you think is a candidate for immortality?