I’ve spent a lifetime, it seems, learning to create documents, books, pamphlets, reports, newspapers/newsletters (now websites and blogs) that sound and look professional, reading smoothly and correctly to capture and grasp the reader’s attention, making some of the least exciting material look interesting to the professionals who need the information.
It can be quite a challenge to break up voluminous mounds of b&w copy with images, figures, captions, tables, or columns by designing with color, boxed copy, even using shapes, lines, graphics, and white space for a pleasant looking and user-friendly publication.
It starts with the written word. If the words aren’t editorially correct and interesting, no amount of pizzazz is going to help. Always start with a good editor…not yourself…no matter how good you are at catching typos and correcting grammar/punctuation, telling a story, or creating fresh business copy or design. A fresh pair of eyes is essential to see what the writer can’t see…when you read right over errors or “glitches”–as we called them in the newspaper business–because your mind has engrained in it what you wrote, what order you wrote it in, and what points you made. Your eyes see what they expect to see, not necessarily what is there at all. And a writer can almost never cut his/her own material…redundancy? It doesn’t exist in a writer’s mind. “I need every word. I can’t relate the events or tell the story without all the stylistic comparisons and background information!” So what do you do when your editor tells you that 6 column inches must become 4 or even 3 inches? Cut it in half, but say the same thing? Impossible! Let an editor look at it. Bring it back to the basics–who, what, when, where, and not even how, unless you’re writing a training or assembly manual.
There are different levels of editing: proofreading, copy editing, technical editing, developmental and content editing, full edit with some rewriting, a complete rewrite, and ghost writing. I do a free reading of your first chapter or a specific part of your book or business mission/proposal to give you an idea of what may be required to finish, edit, and achieve professional quality. Many times my free suggestions can help you resolve problems before they occur and diminish the level of editing and consequently lower the fees.
I was fortunate to learn from the very best…the U.S. Army back when a typo could get you court-martialed or a wrong word could cause an international incident. And we did it all by hand, stripping in corrections on light-tables, one line/one word/one letter at a time. Does anyone realize how small an 8-point period really is? I don’t want to go back to those days, but I do want the meticulous quality from that era when it took a whole art and composition department a year to layout one book.
I’ve always been fascinated with computers, so way back in the early 1980s, I automated the largest Army Major Command on a UNIX system that filled the entire basement of a 10-story building. As computers got smaller and personal printers finally were able to generate camera-ready copy, I transferred my skills strictly to my PC. Finally, we were able to mix text and graphics on one screen with the right tools and software packages. We waited a long time for that.
I’ve heard so many complaints about MS Publisher, but I can’t imagine life without it. The key with Publisher is that you have to understand publishing and printing concepts and terminology. And sometimes if it seems you have to reinvent the wheel with each new project, it’s just another great learning experience. As you can probably tell, as much as I’m a writer, a poet, a fiction author who loves the beauty and sound of descriptive word paintings as well as the art of storytelling, I also love the nuts-and-bolts of design and creation. Above all, I am a stickler for accuracy, clarity, and good, solid, meaningful writing.
This is what I’m made of, and this is what I do…I make everyone a better writer and if you want to know editing rules and reasons for what I do along the way to hone your writing craft, I’ll throw that in too. I enjoy teaching and mentoring.
Do I edit my own books? No, I do not. I do proofread my blogs, so don’t be surprised if you catch me with a typo or a word left out or some other silly goof. We’re only human, but that’s so far superior to spell-check and grammar-check…your best friend at times and your worst nightmare at others.
Check out my business website at http://www.clasidconsultantspublishing.com and my complete bio with my credentials on this site under “Who Am I?”
Deborah A. Bowman, Writer/Editor and Publishing Consultant