Monday, 26 August 2019


With a double hat tip to Dave Lull and Frank Wilson, I pass on a link to this excellent piece on editing – copy and line, necessity for and sad decline of.
 I spent a quarter of a century seriously editing copy other than my own, and I owe most of what I know of the subject to my old friend Chris, with whom I worked for a couple of very formative years on a well known listings magazine. She was a formidably good editor, and, unlike many in the trade, a good communicator. She worked for some while on a style manual which was a model of lucidity and accessibility, and an invaluable tool, full of crystal-clear explantations of knotty points of syntax. Unfortunately she was gone before the project was completed, and some while later it was handed to me – but I too was gone before I could get much further, and it was then handed on to the person most likely to obfuscate it or run it aground. Moving on to my next job, I was fortunate to come across another gifted and splendidly rigorous editor, a veritable connoisseur of the art. Her all-time favourite mark was the insertion of a (correct, of course) hyphen into 'obsessive compulsive'...
 Subeditors (as we call them) weren't always as good as those two. Back in the days when I wrote features on this and that for The Times, I would quite often open the paper to find my piece hideously mangled – and, worse, with factual errors introduced – but since then, I think, fewer editors has tended to mean better editors. And of course the internet has changed everything, making factual errors – if not sloppy writing and editing – much rarer. However, as the Washington Free Beacon piece argues, good copy and line editors are still needed, and there are now too few of them.
 I heartily agree with Frank Wilson that much of what is written online goes on too long and digresses too much. So I'll stop here.