Simon Minto tutors editing for the Diploma in Publishing (Applied). He is currently a freelance editor, having worked at Learning Media for much of his career.
There are some weird things about editing. Although it’s a critical part of any publication, not many people know what it is. And if the editing is fantastic, then no one notices. It can all seem a bit odd for the editor, who puts huge focus and concentration into a publication, often giving a lot of themselves. And then at the launch, they are in the back corner, insignificant and early to leave. I saw a film once about a famous piano tuner in Vienna. He worked intensely with the pianist to get the piano exactly how it needed to sound. He made sure everything was right, even checking the hammers individually before the concert and doing a final tune minutes before the start. Then when the concert began, he went home. He never listened to a performance. To me, he was a real editor. He even looked like one.
Editing is a tough skill. It’s unforgiving. All kinds of pressures can interfere with concentration. Editors are focused on getting things exactly right, but perfection is unattainable. But nevertheless, there is something satisfying about applying a skill with language and having it communicate properly – having all the words sound the way they should.
I think the best editors are those who know that they need to know more. It’s kind of never ending. But I find myself growing when I find out something new, some new style or approach, and it’s a great feeling to make the language sing just a little. Without the tuner, the best pianist would sound awful; without the editor, the words would die on the page.