METM15 presentation

The delicate art of commenting: exploring different approaches and their implications for the author-editor relationship

Sabrina Voss, Barcelona, and Oliver Shaw, Madrid, Spain
Authors who require English-language support to improve the quality of their manuscripts may call upon a range of language professionals, including freelance editors and in-house institutional editors. Although these two types of editor work toward the same goal, the nature of their roles may differ substantially for a number of reasons, the most salient being the degree of involvement with content presentation and arguments that clients might expect.

The type of pressure faced by each editor may greatly determine the approach taken. A good illustration of just how different these approaches can be is the way comments are put to the author. These messages, which most often appear as margin comments, can have a number of intentions: to confirm the editor’s supposition, to request especially close review by the author, to provide alternative phrasings, or to suggest that the author reevaluate their writing. Patterns in a given editor’s comments can reveal a great deal about how the author-editor relationship is interpreted.

This presentation reports on the results of a project carried out by two authors’ editors interested in learning more about other ways of approaching the editing of texts by writers of English as an additional language. The presenters—a freelance editor and an in-house editor—exchanged three texts from past clients. Each editor blindly edited the original version of each text before comparing the two edited versions, focusing on the use of comments to appraise how each editor chose to work with the text and the author. The results of the exercise revealed significant differences in terms of communicative style in comments, time spent, and involvement with content and arguments.

During the session, the presenters will describe the overall approach to comments used by each and the reasons behind their choices. Examples from the exercise will be shown and discussed.
Oliver Shaw is a translator, editor, interpreter, and language instructor at the Hospital Universitario Fundación Jiménez Díaz and the healthcare-management firm Quirónsalud. He is based in Madrid, Spain.

Sabrina Voss is a freelance educator, translator, and editor based in Barcelona, Spain. She specializes in providing language support to authors writing for publication in scientific and other academic journals.