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.
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!
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.