Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#17)

In this recurring feature, we’re sharing tips for editors from the desk of Douglas Gibson. Good for those starting out or old hands who need a reminder, these reminders form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.

Tip #17
In her 2012 book The Literary Legacy of the Macmillan Company of Canada: Making Books and Mapping Culture, Ruth Panofsky quotes the editorial policy of the legendary publisher John Morgan Gray: “Gray’s ‘first job’ was to help authors realize their ‘full potential’ and he consistently followed his own ‘golden rule’ for editors: ‘[When] dealing with writers who know what they are doing don’t edit any more than requested to do; stand by to help if called on. Occasionally even the most assured writer will get too close to his work and may then welcome a hint of how it appears to someone else . . . The ideal role for the editor calls for sympathetic understanding, some talent for listening, judgment and good sense.’”

 

Editing Tips from Douglas Gibson (#16)

In this recurring feature, we’re sharing tips for editors from the desk of Douglas Gibson. Good for those starting out or old hands who need a reminder, these reminders form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.

Tip #16
Sometimes there is a clash between the wide-ranging expectations of a publisher and the difficult detailed work that the luckless editor has to do on the manuscript. This (except in the case of schizophrenics who are both publishers and editors, cough, cough) reflects a basic difference in character. As the wise John Le Carré has one of his cynical characters remark in The Russia House, “Publishers can get their minds halfway round anything.” Editors, by contrast, can’t just be halfway professionals.