Monday, February 12, 2007

Copyediting world

Coming from the engineering and science world, this class has been refreshing. There is a common stereotype of engineers: they may be able to design gravity-defying structures, but to have them write a paper on what they are doing is somewhat of a challenge. I heard the phrase “we’re engineers, why should we have to go to some English class?” more than a few times in my undergraduate classes, which leads to interesting collaborations for group reports. Of course, many engineers write well, usually in a clear and straightforward manner. One thing that I thought was interesting is that I think there is really a common ground between copyeditors and engineers that I want to try out on you, so here goes.

I got really excited when several other people admitted enjoying such a taboo thing like grammar trees, because secretly, I like them too. I got to thinking, and I realized that the reason I like grammar trees comes from the same (obsessive?) mechanism in my brain that makes me want to find the optimal solution to a problem. Both copyediting and engineering are problem solving jobs, where paying close attention to detail is crucial. It seems funny that with as many hours as an engineer will spend in front of an Excel spreadsheet, how much he/she/e might not want to spend making sure their report is well written. I suppose it’s just the type of problems we like to tackle. I see a potential bridge here…

I found some additional incentives to be a copyeditor: “Top 10 Reasons Why Being a Copy Editor Is So Cool”


DavisH said...

Truthfully speaking, those are some very valid reasons about why one should be a copy editor. Some of them were great, but others could use a bit of polishing up.

I always thought I was a pretty decent writer as a whole. Writing was not an aquired talent by any means, but I've found that the more I write, the easier it becomes. This is why I want to be an editor. I find it'll be much easier to edit someone's work than create your own. A lot of people might disagree, but when you're writing on your own, you are your greatest enemy. You can develop writer's block due to a lack of creativity, or you simply don't enjoy what you write. An editor follows rules and guidelines that are very strict and leave little room for debate.

Most of all, though, I think I want to become an editor is because there are a lot of bad writers in the world, and I really don't that is a fact that will change anytime soon, as sad as that is.

Pat said...

Interesting that you bring up problem solving, Megan. I love the problem-solving aspect of copyediting and have been thinking about it for the last year or so. It would be wonderful if we could find a way to present copyediting to engineers, scientists, and technicians as a way to solve problems with conceptualization, organization, and expression. Perhaps Ritchie will have some ideas about this.

Davis, I have to give you the rest of The New Yorker piece on editing fiction; you'll enjoy reading it in light of your remarks here.