A brief discussion on editing practice

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Hello and welcome to the show.

Recently I had a discussion with Aaron Mannion who teaches in the school of Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne. I wanted to chat with him about his experiences working as an editor.

Can you please tell me a bit about your first professional experiences as an editor, did you feel there was an expectation that you would already know everything?

Mr Mannion:

I think I did. I think in some ways I was probably less aware of what I didn’t know than I would be now –– Well not that I would be now, but that I would be now if I was that me then.

Uh, I should have been massively nervous and probably wasn’t nervous enough, uh, in many ways. And yeah, a certain degree of naive arrogance um probably carried me over a little bit where I should have been more nervous.

But again, I think one of the things that you do do as an editor, which is usually a good thing but not necessarily, is that we are falling back on convention. Um, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing because conventions are shared.

Uh, and so a lot of it isn’t necessarily personal, although you certainly –– ah, could –– like a call, a judgement call and language is certainly things that we feel –– I mean I know from editing students if they make a comma error they feel much worse about themselves than if they’d made an error in a spreadsheet.

Uh, and, essentially formalised grammar, and the stuff that we use in editing for correction, is ultimately, yeah it’s something that needs to be learned. There’s no commas in speech, So, do you know what I mean, you have to learn these afterwards um, you rely to a certain extent on your lived experience, but yeah it’s a thing to be learned.

But it is weird that we do, it’s central to who we are and therefore we feel much worse, as I said yeah, a student who kind of gets some comma errors will feel terrible but if they made the same errors on a spreadsheet they’d be like, meh I need to learn this but not a big deal.


Yeah, so I can relate to that example. Sometimes the small errors that we make can trip us all up, but really it is about sort of, communicating effectively and different people find their own ways of communicating as effectively as they can. And from the outside looking in it doesn’t sound –– we don’t know the codes, or we don’t know how they have applied the codes.

Mr Mannion

No, no, and I think what a good editor does is they’re good at figuring out what codes are likely to be shared uh, and also make trade-offs, I mean, most of us –– uh, it’s not always a case of understand or don’t understand, but kind of there’s often kind of a middle ground and so quite how much you’re going to prioritise and focus on maintaining the integrity of the original would vary.

Often in creative work we put more weight on that. In stuff that’s purely informational we put relatively little weight on that.

What we’re doing as editors is trying to make sure that there is a good match, uh, or an adequate match, between reader and writer. And one of the ways that we do that is standard grammar. Because it’s standard.

Language works because we agree what stuff means. It doesn’t often matter that much what we agree on as long as we agree on it. And in some ways, uh, so good grammar and punctuation is good because most people know it even if they don’t use it all the time.


And unfortunately, that’s all we had time for today. Thank you very much for listening. Until next time.


Music used

Coupe by The Grand Affair > Available from the YouTube audio library > Used with permission

Intentions by Anno Domini Beats > Available from the YouTube audio library > Used with permission

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