Who Does What?
Phil and I have moved into Section Two of the four sections of his book. Are you surprised to notice that I’ve not talked about sentence structure or commas? . . . . When I was a publisher, I used to tell my boss:
You have to build the book, before you can see the commas.
This diagram shows the part of the writing process that Phil and I are currently working on.
This post is a closer look at what we’re actually doing — what his role is as the writer and what my role is as the book editor.
The writer, that’s Phil, crafts the message. In this case that’s his blog posts.
The writer’s job is to choose words with precision and arrange them carefully. His purpose is to convey meaning. He does this by prewriting, drafting, and writing/revising. The writer is on the outgoing side of the message. In this process, Phil’s blog posts are the draft in the diagram.
The Book and Content Editor
The editor’s job is to challenge the writing. All editors are on the incoming side of the message. We remove ambiguities, errors, and barriers. An editor ensures that the meaning the writer intends is the meaning that reader receives. Editors look and listen for the audience and then tell the writer the truth about what they see and hear.
That’s why and how great writers and editors form lasting partnerships. The relationship is balanced and symbiotic.
As the book editor, my job is to help structure and challenge the writing to ensure that every idea and detail belongs in the book. As the content editor, my job is to challenge the writing, looking for problems in the expression of ideas — logic, clarity, and cohesion. I think about questions like these.
- Is the focus clear? Is the message sound? Does the structure make sense for the premise? Does every part meet the standards?
- Is the structure natural to the topic? Is the navigation seamless and not in the way of the message?
- Is the voice confident and consistent? Does it sound like Phil’s voice? Is the tone authentic and appropriate for the audience?
- Do the words make sense, with a consistency? Will the reader hear what Phil is saying without a chance of misunderstanding? Does the word choice fit the premise and the way the audience listens?
- When I turn the page, is what comes next, what the reader expects?
As I answer each question for myself, I share my answers with Phil. Every week we talk. Phil uses our conversation and specific edits to do his writing revisions. He adds new content where he agrees it is needed to make the pages fit together and flow. He wants the message in the book to work for readers.
When we’re finished with all of the pages, we’ll hand them over to a copyedtior. Then the focus moves from “what” the writer is saying to “how” and “how well” the message is said.
Though copyeditors still care about sense and logic, their irreplaceable contribution lies in their work to achieve linguistic perfection. Copyeditors check for grammar, usage, mechanics, syntax and semantics. In some scenarios, proofreaders follow to check spelling and punctuation. They also check to ensure that no new errors have been introduced during the editing process. In other scenarios, copyeditors do these roles too.
Phil and I have three more sections to get through the diagram. But keep watching, we might be doing a few things with Section One while we’re working on those. . . .
–ME “Liz” Strauss
If you’d like Liz to help you find or make a book from your archives, click on the Work with Liz!! page in the sidebar.
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