All you editors in the house, put your pens up! That’s right, let’s get that trademark ‘vaguely neurotic and more than a bit passive-aggressive’ vibe going here. I’m about to put us all on the same self-righteous page.
So, remember the last time you made the mistake of returning an author’s writing to them after you’ve spent a good few hours editing it? It made sense at the time — they’d done the research and needed to check all their findings were still correct, or they were well known enough to require sign-off on the final copy. Whatever. The bottom line is you sent it to them and they sent it back, but not before painstakingly undoing a whole host of your corrections without tracking jack all.
I imagine the thoughts going through the culprit’s mind at that point went something like this:
‘Oh, they seem to have accidentally changed this “2” into “two”. Well, I suppose this can happen to anyone. I’ll just fix it for them.
‘Ooh, another one? Once is nothing to shout about, but twice? That’s just careless. What? A third time? For Pete’s sake, what are we paying these people for. Well, we’re not paying them, but still. Call themselves editors. So far as I can tell, they’ve gone and changed every figure under ten to be spelled out. Bloody useless. Maybe it’s autocorrect? Gah, doesn’t matter. I’ll fix it.
‘Always thought they were a load of hacks.
‘Now to sit back and wait for the grovelling apology and simpering “thank you” emails to roll in for me doing their bloody job for them. I deserve a cuppa.’
I once had this happen with quotation marks in a piece that originally used a cacophony of singles and doubles. I changed these to reflect, consistently, our house style — that is, single quotes. The copy was then sent off for a fact check prior to publication. Imagine my gratitude upon finding, on its return, that someone had gone through and changed these back to doubles, effectively wasting the time of everyone involved.
Not only that, but they re-introduced a load of weird grammar and changed more than half of the age references to a mix of ‘x-year old’, ‘x year-old’ and ‘x years-old’.
Still, at least this lot hadn’t recoloured our logo to suit their fancy.
What the bulk of people outside of editorial — the most neurotic of offices — don’t seem to understand is that the most important thing when it comes to company style is consistency. It doesn’t matter that Bill down the road spells ‘atomised’ with a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’; it doesn’t matter what your or my views are on the Oxford comma, or whether you have a penchant for interrobangs. Suck it up and allow us to match the writing to the house style.
It’s also pretty insulting and a plain manifestation of the idea that, since writing is something most of us know how to do, anyone can do it. You see it with designers as well. I’m sure a lot of the time it isn’t intended to be condescending, but it super is.
Anyway, phew. I feel much better now. Thanks for listennig?!1;
Up for some solidarity?
Got experience of this? Boy, do I hear you. Share it below and let’s get angry together.