Category Archives: editing
Tonight, all around the world, people will be celebrating and reading and enjoying BOOKS! Yes … those archaic paper things that are bound in the smelly glue … you probably have some gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. I am a firm believed in books (I think you have to be a bit of a nutter to work in publishing), and I am also a firm believer in the FUTURE of books. E-books and e-readers are great for some things, but they’ll never completely replace the physical book.
Because it’s National Book Night, we’re going to Trafalgar Square to take part in some cool activities. There will be writers and readers and authors and publishers — all just kind of hanging out together. And it’s not even raining right now, so that makes it extra good for a Friday night activity.
Why don’t you check out the website, World Book Night, and see if there any any activities taking place near you?
I had a very interesting discussion in the office recently about differences in editorial philosophy. Here are both viewpoints:
OPINION A: In my experience, both academic and professional, I find that US writing tends to be very politically correct. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and rewrite anything that could be potentially offensive. Unless the term or phrase is absolutely required, in which case it should be used with an appropriate disclaimer. While most writers and editors like to think that we know our audience, the truth is that once the words are on the page they can be read by anyone, anywhere. This is especially true in the age of the internet (as anyone on Facebook has likely discovered). I feel that it’s wise to take an extremely conservative view when it comes to editorial political correctness. Oftentimes that turn-of-phrase really isn’t all the necessary, and if you can maintain the meaning and weight of the sentence by structuring it in such a way as to not offend, then that’s your job as a good editor. It is my job to ensure that my work is read widely and frequently. If half my audience dismisses it out of hand because they find it off-putting, then my message isn’t getting out there. It’s my responsibility as a communicator to make my words work for me, and not against me.
OPINION B: In the UK, political correctness is considered secondary to the intrinsic value of the text. Strong language has a place, and the watering-down of a phrase to ensure that it doesn’t offend can weaken the overall message. One of the great side-effects of experiencing difference cultures is personal growth, which is not always pleasant. Sometimes you have to expose yourself to that which is distasteful in order to understand and change it. A writer or editor should not be a censor. It is up to each individual reader to react and adapt to the text they are reading; it cannot be the job of an editor to predict any and all reactions. An editor can only work with the text they are given, and if someone is offended by that text, then that is their responsibility. I have communicated my message; how you receive it is your choice. Perhaps this is the result of a colonizing culture, one that has not had to pander to a greater power or struggled for recognition.
So….. what do you think? The phrase that prompted this discussion was “going native”, as in “the first explorer to land on the island went native and was never heard from again”. Now I can see the value of both opinions from above. Going native, as an expression, is incredibly strong language and contains nuances of opinion that will be lost if you change it. But, I also think that the phrase is used to refer to the fear felt by European colonists that they would become assimilated by a culture they didn’t value as highly as their own. Personally, I think it is a derogatory and offensive term, and I would remove it. My British colleagues felt differently, and ultimately we had to accept an impasse.
In other news from my workday, I learned that the milk of the Guernsey cow is especially rich in beta-carotine, which results in the famously golden-orange color of butter on the Isle of Guernsey. (They usually use it as a means of mocking their less-than-golden-orange-buttery-neighbors on the island of Jersey.)
I just submitted that last post to the website “I Write Like”
It’s a cool little app that will analyze your writing, and tell you which great author’s style you emulate.
And guess what? I write like Kurt Vonnegut!
I’m actually not sure if that’s a compliment or an insult. I really dislike Vonnegut. Oops! Who do you write like?