“Talking" to authors by annotating their texts

METM 06, Barcelona
27-28 October 2006

Friday 27, 16:00-19:00, Room 4


What do you do if you can’t discuss editorial issues face to face with an author? Phoning, emailing, or submitting “comments for the author” documents are options, but why not “talk” to the author by annotating the electronic manuscript? Never tried this? Tried it but not getting the information or response you needed? Curious whether your method could be improved? Wonder what other editors do? Come to this workshop! Bring a laptop – or work on paper simulations!

Purpose | Description | Structure | Who should attend? | Outcome skills


Joy Burrough-Boenisch,
Joy Burrough-Boenisch (about Joy)


To impart and consolidate a focused-communication skill needed by authors’ editors, particularly those working with authors writing in a second language. 


When we read with the aim of assessing or correcting a manuscript’s content or language – or both – we often write comments to the author in (or on) the text. The premise underlying the workshop is that if we understand why we “talk” to the author like this and know how best to do so, we’ll be more effective authors’ editors. There are no hard and fast rules for writing in-text comments for authors, so we’ll investigate the options by sharing our experiences (and frustrations), looking at examples of techniques used by authors’ editors in various European countries, and doing some on-the-spot editing. Though all the text examples will be in English, the principles and techniques will apply to editing manuscripts in any language. The exercises will be non-threatening: intended to generate discussion and probably revealing that different editors react differently to the same text.


We’ll start by discussing the need to “talk” to authors via annotations. This will be complemented by a PowerPoint presentation on the reasons for writing in-text comments that will also highlight textual problems that a careful editor should bring to the author’s attention, and show how some established authors’ editors do this by means of in-text comments. There will be some short editing exercises to be done individually and in groups, and we will brainstorm about the best way of negotiating with authors.


Who should attend
Whether you’re an experienced authors’ editor, or a beginner, you’ll have something to contribute and should take away useful insights into editing in general and your editing in particular.


Outcome skills
After attending this workshop, participants will

  • have greater insight into why and how they change texts
  • know how to make appropriate and effective in-text comments to authors

In addition, novice editors will have acquired the confidence to write comments in texts, whereas experienced editors will have consolidated their skills and benchmarked their techniques and viewpoints against those of their peers.


About the facilator

Joy Burrough-Boenisch, an authors’ editor, lived and worked in the Netherlands from 1976 to 2005. Her interest in second language interference and non-native English led her to help found SENSE (the Society of English-Native-Speaking Editors in the Netherlands) and to do a doctorate on Dutch scientific English. She has written numerous articles and a book for fellow editors and translators. She now works from the UK.