Is your editing head always on?

Editing Head

One of the problems with being an editor is that, like Worzel Gummidge, sometimes you have to screw your Editing Head off and put it in the cupboard.

Before I entered the hallowed corridors of editorship I rarely looked at a book with a clinical eye. Sure, I always checked out the index, but that was ingrained from years of librarianship training and the love of readily accessible information.

Once I saw a question asking a well established editor whether they read for pleasure any more… and they said no. I wish I could remember where I read that. I thought “How awful” and continued on with my training, thinking “That would never happen to me”.

And thank goodness it hasn’t happened… yet.

But I can see where they were coming from.

Take my recent holiday… we visited the Glasgow Science Centre, and fabulous it was too. Only I spotted a very minor typo on a sign (and I mean VERY minor, I doubt anyone else would notice the use of an en-dash instead of a hyphen). And someone (another off-duty editor perhaps?) had altered a sign, with a pen, after a winning photograph entry was entitled “Practicing” instead of “Practising” (the English verb form of practice, to carry out an activity). Now, couldn’t they have left that one, in respect for the competition winner?… or perhaps it was a member of staff who felt that a messy ball-point correction was necessary.

Editor strikes again
Sometimes correction is just not cool

And then there was the visit to a lovely café for lunch, one of my favourite places. It was supposed to be a nice hour, spent relaxing… and then I spotted two (rather amusing) typos on the new menu. Aaaaargh!

Chilly chicken
A bad photo from my phone… but I couldn’t help it…visions of cute little chicks wandering around in mufflers kept popping into my head.

See? Never off duty.

The reviews on my blog are usually carried out wearing my Reading for Enjoyment Head, but if I read during the day I have to be especially careful when switching heads… it can be all too easy to leave that head on when the Editing Head should be deployed.

Every night I settle down with a good book (see Life’s Too Short for Boring books for more) and make sure my Editing Head is in the cupboard. Sometimes it can get really annoying if I forget to take it off and replace it with Reading for Enjoyment Head. That’s the night that I spot the errant apostrophe or the curiously placed comma. And bloody annoying it can be too. It really can interfere with your reading enjoyment.

The next time you spot someone out in the town, and they have a pen poised (perhaps it’s a well worn red pen), they are not being funny, they are not trying to be rude. They are very likely an editor who has forgotten to leave their Editing Head in the cupboard at home and replace it with their Out Shopping Head or their Just Enjoying Lunch Head.

So if anyone asks me if I still read for pleasure, the answer is a very vociferous “Yes” as long as I remember to leave my Editing Head in the cupboard.


21 Comments on “Is your editing head always on?

  1. Touché, Sara. I love the Worzel Gummidge metaphor. Never heard of him, of course, but it works really well. I do have trouble reading for pleasure, not so much because of the Editing Head problem, but just because I get tired of reading text of any sort and want to do something completely different. Or maybe it’s because I work too much and then play on the computer. 🙂

    • I thought some readers may not know good old Worzel (thank goodness for wikipedia for a quick link).

      I tend to be on the computer all the time too, but always find time to read at night. It tends to be the only time I read for pleasure, as during the day I tend to be either working…or distracted by the intertubes.

  2. Hi Miselady, Worzel G is a scarecrow – originally in books for children and then as a TV series.

    • Ah, thanks, John. I did check Sara’s link to Wikipedia to see what it was all about. I see from your video that former Doctor Who, Jon Pertwee, got to play old Worzel. Doctor Who I do know about from when I lived in England in the early 80s and now with all the hype about the new one.

  3. Editor types are like the little boy in The Sixth Sense. We see text errors everywhere, all the time. I despair of turning it off and just try to dial it down a notch when not actually being paid or otherwise expected to be in full edit mode.

  4. At this point, I truly find it impossible to take off the editor hat. Even books I love (those are few), I would probably change one or two or a dozen things. I do read for pleasure, but it’s not the same as it used to be. And that is sad! Every book I read, I take notes. Notes about characters and stuff I liked or didn’t like, certain things I would like to use (as example) in my own work or should never use in my own work…

  5. Pingback: Top 5 Freelance Posts | Northern Editorial

  6. Oh goodness, that is so me! I don’t even proofread fiction (yet) but the slightest thing niggles me. And try being an avid reader of the good old Grauniad 🙂

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