The limits of self-editing

Most bloggers either have no editing (me, typically) or self-editing (that is: you write a draft, save it, and come back to look at it before posting) for their posts. A very small number may have editors available. That’s fine for blogs.

Unfortunately for readers (but necessarily for reality), Cites & Insights also only has self-editing. I go back to each individual essay at least once, after at least a day’s rest, to review it carefully and revise it. I also print out all the articles in a forthcoming issue, let that printout sit for a day or more, and go through it line-by-line with a red pen. That’s before copyfitting (getting the issue down to an appropriate even number of pages)–and if copyfitting has been extreme, I’ll print the issue out once more, wait a day, then check it over for oddities. (But I won’t print yet another copy unless there are significant changes.)

I’m a reasonably good editor, I believe, based on nine years’ experience editing the LITA Newsletter, two or three years editing Information Standards Quarterly and three years creating and editing Library Leadership Network. I wonder whether one can ever be as effective self-editing as editing other people’s copy…

Case in point

I was reminded of this yesterday and today. I’m doing a special Spring 2010 edition of Cites & Insights (probably out tomorrow, possibly Saturday, possibly late today), primarily devoted to a single essay “hypePad and buzzkill,” which also introduces a new running feature “The Zeitgeist.” (The first few pages is a Bibs & Blather about sponsorship, being semi-retired and other quandaries…). I’d edited the big essay twice and the B&B once. Putting them together in “issue form,” I got 35 pages; the editing cycle itself didn’t reduce that, but copyfitting and some on-the-fly editing brought it down to 32 pages.

I was happy with what I had–but I thought it might be possible to trim it down to 30 pages and maybe tighten it up in the process. So I did that (and succeeded)…and, in the process, caught and fixed at least eight typos that I wouldn’t have caught otherwise.

I’d love to say that I’ve now caught most of the errors in the issue; I think that’s true, but know better than to claim it. (I’d love to say I’ve caught all of them…but my hubris seems to be on permanent vacation.)

I’m pretty sure I would have caught none of those eight in that “final reading” of the printed issue. For some reason, the kind of reading I was doing on this second pass, primarily devoted to “can I cut this sentence? Can I cut this entire paragraph?” thinking, also yielded that many “hmm, look at that” moments.

Deeper meaning? Probably none. I’m happy that none of the typos affected meaning; they all just made me look slightly illiterate, and by now I’m used to that.

[That’s an early warning: There will be a new Cites & Insights, volume 10, number 5, out Real Soon Now. It’s sponsored by the Library Society of the World. You really should read the masthead when it appears–at the very end of the very last page, as usual.]

Comments are closed.