Monday, January 22, 2007

Communication Style

In class Prof. Matsueda advised that we think of the copy editor as participating in a dialogue with the author. I'm interested in the details of that relationship.

For example, do you change the tone of your queries based on your personal experience with the author? Do you ever try to guess or research the author's disposition so that you can communicate with her more effectively? How often does the dialogue between writer and copy editor end on the page, and how often do copy editors and authors meet, either in person or via email/teleconference? I imagine the effort of relationship management varies between publications, as well as between freelancers and non-freelancers. If you freelance there aren't other people in the organization to aid in managing the author-copy editor relationship. Ideally though, would your final copy edit be identical for the same piece of writing, even if it were written by two different people?

1 comment:

Pat said...

Sorry to save your question for last, David. In some ways, it is the most complex.

Take a look at pages 166 and 167 of your textbook. You'll see a sample memo from the copyeditor to the author and instructions on wording. Now, you may never write such a memo—your office may have different procedures for communicating with the author—but studying these two pages will be beneficial to you anyway.

It's important to remember that your focus and the author's should be on the work. You both have the same goal: to bring to the reader as effective and impressive a piece of writing as possible. Where the author insists on his or her wording—even after you've explained why you think it should be changed—it is best to consult your boss for advice. In many cases, your boss will recommend deferring to the author.

And yes, the copyediting you do—whether it be for a publishing house or a private client, for a doctoral student or an eminent professor—should meet the same standards of professionalism.

Later today, I'll try to post on our home page sections from chapter 2 of The Chicago Manual of Style. These deal with the author-editor relationship in detail, and we can discuss them in class. If you are going to the library today or tomorrow, I'd recommend that you take a look at Chicago; you should be able to find it in the reference section. If you took advantage of the free trial subscription, you can look at chapter 2 online. I have a link to the site in the upper-right corner of the blog.

In my case, I rarely meet the authors I deal with. However, I have formed warm relationships with some of them via e-mail. In fact, I consider Karen Gernant, a former professor and a translator of Chinese, a friend even though we've never met face-to-face. For her part, Karen feels free to express herself if she's unhappy with something our office has done. At these times, I've either apologized or tried to explain why what happened happened. Because mutual respect is there, the relationship remains sound and intact.

I suppose this is one of the best reasons to be professional in copyediting: bridges are built, and information flows freely over them—to the benefit of readers everywhere.