The Art of Editing with a Light Hand

Editing Translation Syllabus MontrealReady. Set. Edit.

It’s easy to open a document, turn on Track Changes, and begin brandishing dashes and slaying semicolons as you fly across the page. It’s harder to hold tight, read the document through, get a feel for the writer’s voice, understand what the writer is trying to say—and then pick up the mighty red pen.

Restrain yourself.

You know how you would like the prose to sound, but you’re not the writer. It’s not your job to rewrite. As tempting as it might be to toss the original in the trash and start over, that’s not the task you were assigned.

See the forest for the trees.

Sometimes you need to see the mountain range before you look at the lichen. Get the big picture and then go nitpicky small. Don’t get caught up on a misplaced comma before you know what the sentence is trying to say.

Don’t bite the hand that feeds.

All that red is depressing—if not infuriating—to the writer, who thinks that you have ignored what they were trying to say and simply rewrote it. They no longer see themselves in their work; they just see red. And they don’t call you again.

Less is best.

Take the words of Harry Shaw (author of Punctuate It Right) and apply them to editing: “more often than not, too little punctuation impedes communication less than does over-punctuation.”



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