Examples of Editing Work

January 28, 2009

Different clients want different levels of editing, ranging from a light touch to wholesale revisions. Two cases in point:

EXAMPLE  1

Here’s basic copy editing that tightened, smoothed, and corrected the writer’s prose while preserving his style and voice: 

After

Man, I am tired of your complaints. Constantly carping and whining, you blame me for your woes. You envision perfection, exclaiming that this must be the best of all worlds. When you conclude that it is not the best, you blame me for not creating it right. I found you interesting when you began to evolve, a kind of novelty, but your behavior has become tiresome. You are a latecomer in a much bigger picture, one that you intuitively understand but refuse to accept.

As hard as you may find this to believe, I did not create this world for you. It is only one small part of a whole. I had to design a vast, integrated universe that worked. It had to incorporate cause and effect, which requires limits. You came late, almost as an afterthought. You are but a tiny creature with limited understanding. I never intended to make this system the best or worst, a topic endlessly debated by your Mr.Leibniz and Mr. Voltaire. It just is. Most of your problems arise because you arrogantly think you are the center of my design. You keep trying to operate outside my patterns of nature and alter this unified system to your advantage. This effort causes most of your problems and very likely may cause your extinction.

That which I create I can take away.

Marked-up original (with annotated comments to the writer)

Man am I tired of your complaints. You are forever blaming me for all your woes and troubles. Constantly carping, criticizing, caviling and whining[MB1], you blame me for your woes. You envision perfectness and exclaim, exclaiming that this must be the best of all worlds. but then complain that it is not. When you decide conclude that it is not the best of all worldsyou then blame me for not creating it right. I found you interesting when you began to evolve, a kind of novelty, but your behavior has become tiresome. You are a latecomer in a much bigger picture, one that you intuitively understand but refuse to accept.

As hard as you may find this to believe man, I did not create this world for you. Your world It is but only one small part of a whole. I had to design a grand vast, and universal integrated system universe that worked. It had to be integrated and intelligible to me. It had to incorporate cause and effect, which necessarily entails requires limits. You came late, almost as an afterthought and you only inhabit one small planet which is but part of one very vast and integrated system. You are but a tiny, limited little creature with limited understanding. I never intended to make this system the best or worst, a topic endlessly debated by your Mr. Leibnez [MB2] Leibniz and Mr. Voltaire. It just is. Most of your problems arise because you arrogantly think you are the center of my design. You are forever endeavoring keep trying to operate outside my patterns of nature and alter this unified system to your advantage. It is tThis effort that causes most of your problems and may very likely may bring about cause your extinction. That which I create I can take away. [MB3]

[MB1] The differences in these words (carping, caviling, criticizing, and whining) are fairly slight. Using so many descriptors weakens the impact. Thus my recommended cut of caviling and whining. This is something you should consider throughout the manuscript, where in some cases you have as many as six similar words that essentially says the same thing.

[MB2] “Leibniz,” as in Gottfried, is the correct spelling. Also, if you intend the book for a general audience, he isn’t as well known as Voltaire, so using his name may not mean anything to many readers.

[MB3] I recommend making this a stand-alone paragraph. It’s a great ominous line and has much more impact broken out this way. In fact, you should look for more opportunities like this given that almost all paragraphs are exceedingly long. Varied paragraph and sentence length improve readability.

Original

Man am I tired of your complaints. You are forever blaming me for all your woes and troubles. Constantly carping, criticizing, caviling and whining. You envision perfectness and exclaim that this must be the best of all worlds but then complain that it is not. When you decide that it is not the best of all worlds you then blame me for not creating it right. I found you interesting when you began to evolve, a kind of novelty, but your behavior has become tiresome. You are a latecomer in a much bigger picture, one that you intuitively understand but refuse to accept.

As hard as you may find this to believe man, I did not create this world for you. Your world is but one small part of a whole. I had to design a grand and universal system that worked. It had to be integrated and intelligible to me. It had to incorporate cause and effect, which necessarily entails limits. You came late, almost as an afterthought and you only inhabit one small planet which is but part of one very vast and integrated system. You are but a tiny, limited little creature with limited understanding. I never intended to make this system the best or worst, a topic endlessly debated by your Mr. Leibnez and Mr. Voltaire. It just is. Most of your problems arise because you arrogantly think you are the center of my design. You are forever endeavoring to operate outside my patterns of nature and alter this unified system to your advantage. It is this effort that causes most of your problems and may very likely bring about your extinction. That which I create I can take away.

EXAMPLE 2

Here’s an example of extensive editing. The publisher wanted the historical essay to be less dry and more appealing to a general audience—without sacrificing the academic integrity of the meticulously researched work. Besides basic copy editing, the revisions included organizational changes and other rewriting. Compare the revised opening paragraph to the original:

After

Silas Bryant Smith was born to parents from cultures a world apart but occupying the same land. Unlike many children from unions between Native Americans and descendants of white European settlers in the nineteenth century, Smith bridged both heritages in building a remarkably productive life that left a permanent mark in Northwest history. His mother, a high-ranking member of the Chinookan-speaking Clatsop tribe, taught Smith her language, which he embraced along with other aspects of her culture. Thanks to his father, a white American fur trader and Oregon’s first school teacher, Smith also grew up in an atmosphere of learning and discipline. Born in 1839, he spent his childhood in the ancestral home of his mother’s people, the Clatsop Plains, a then-isolated area extending south from the Columbia River mouth along the northwest Oregon coast.

Before

Born to a high-ranking woman of the Clatsop Tribe, Silas Bryant Smith learned her language and embraced her cultural heritage. Born to Oregon’s first school teacher, a white American, he grew up in an atmosphere of learning and discipline. He spent his childhood on the isolated Clatsop Plains, then crossed the continent to expand his education in New Hampshire, studied law, and became a member of the bar in three states: New Hampshire, Missouri, and Oregon. A farmer, attorney, published writer, and civic leader, he led a remarkably productive life.