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Editors Talk about Editing

Insights for Readers, Writers and Publishers


Susan L. Greenberg

The work of «editing» is by and large something that happens behind the scenes, noticed only when it is done badly, or not done at all. There is not much information about what editors do. The result is that editing is not often talked about in its own right – not even by the people who do it. This collection of interviews attempts to fill some of the gaps. The author, a former editor herself, interviews practitioners at the top of their game – from newspapers, magazines, broadcast news, book publishing, scholarly editing, academic publishing and digital curation. The interviewees think out loud about creativity and human judgment; what they have in common and what makes them different; how editing skills and culture can be shared; why editing continues to fascinate; and why any of this might matter.
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All the interviews in this book cover the same themes, but the selection of questions from the full set—and the precise wording of each question—are varied to suit each encounter. This approach falls in the category of the ‘semi-structured interview’, a form of fieldwork found in naturalistic enquiry in which the discussion is guided by a common set of questions, but the exchange is not as formally structured as a structured questionnaire.

Your own practice

1. Do you think of yourself as an editor? If not, what do you call what you do?

2. What do you do? Describe a typical day

3. What do you like most/least about editing?

4. What is your main concern when editing and how is it resolved? Is there a particular example of editing that illustrates this concern?

5. At the more detailed level of style, what matters?

6. Do you think of your reader? How? On what level?

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