Editing in the 2010s 2/2

We, as (in the role of) editors, know that we have to change, but more often than not we find ourselves equipped with old thinking and tools to cope with the new reality. That is the biggest challenge.

Traditional editing guide is getting rusty

The Chicago Manual of Style is the definite style guide for many editors. Not all of its recommendations are successfully updated to reflect the latest technology and business trend. I will list some of the suggestions that seem to require serious update.

  • Separate electronic files should be prepared for different elements (2.3, 2.19): many modern software successfully integrate various elements of manuscripts in a single file.
  • Manuscript should be printed on one side of the paper only (2.8): Not only it is not eco-friendly but also ignores the fact that printing is not necessary at all in some cases.
  • Sans serif font should be avoided (2.11): Most default font on a computer display, the primary reading platform nowadays, are sans serif font.

Also, the most updated version of The Chicago Manual of Style is published in 2003. Nowadays, a public database is required to be updated on monthly or weekly basis. Having no major update in seven years is not something that should be overlooked.

We need to do more with less time

Everybody is busy and yearns for extra time. In addition, most workers are required to be multitasking, spending less time on each project. Editors should not assume readers are experts of their field nor expect them to spend their time on a particular project each day.

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends editors to make contact with writers in early stages (2.69), but that is based on the serial model of the past, when writers and editors passed their work to each other when finishing each other’s part. These days writers and editors need to work together concurrently, exchanging information in real time. Early is not enough any more. We need to do things Now.

From local to global

English is no more the language of North America and Europe. For example, India has more English speakers than the rest of the world combined. As editors, we need to respect various understanding level of readers.

Put yourself into someone else's shoes

To summarize the challenges facing today’s editors, they are having, or going to have, hard time coping with reality that have changed forever, for better or worse. To overcome these new challenges, editors should adopt an “old” strategy: to place oneself in the other person’s position.

To rephrase it, editors need to do what writers and readers today do: use social media, write and publish online, multitask, and communicate globally. Since the new rules of editing has not been described yet (as the latest Chicago Manual of Style attests), the upcoming era serves both challenges to reinvent ourselves as editors, and opportunities to create new editing rules on our own.