METM14 presentation

Where does it all go? Understanding an editor’s contribution to the publication process

Oliver Shaw

Wordface professionals who provide language support to authors writing in another language have varying degrees of involvement in text production. While some editors collaborate throughout the various stages of writing and peer review, others are called upon to edit a text at one particular point in the text’s evolution, proposing changes to the grammar, syntax, and terminology of the text and making suggestions to improve the readability of the text and its suitability for the genre. Once they receive these one-off edits, some authors accept or reject the editor’s proposed changes for a number of reasons, and the publication process continues, leaving the editor behind. When working within such a confined role, these editors may wonder how their work is received and whether their suggestions for improvement are introduced into the text, as this feedback can help them refine their services and understand more fully their clients’ writing habits and needs.

This presentation offers some findings from the early stages of my doctoral thesis, which seeks to identify the motivations to write as well as the attitudes, processes, and decisions of clinicians and biomedical researchers working in a Spanish university hospital, examining how these factors influence the authors’ rhetorical decisions when writing for English-medium journals. A major component of the study is an ethnographic, text-history approach based on the work of Lillis & Curry. Briefly, text histories trace the trajectory of texts from conception to publication or, conversely, to the moment in which they are abandoned. The materials studied include all drafts of a text, written communication between co-authors, editors’ decisions, and reviewers’ comments. Author interviews were held following my text-based analysis to confirm or contest my understanding of the rhetorical characteristics of certain text fragments as well as to gain a fuller understanding of authors’ perspectives on publishing in English.

Participants will learn of some of the insights gained from the first 4 text histories compiled. These accounts will focus on the authors’ reactions to my proposed edits and suggestions for improvement and will analyze to what extent my contributions became part of the final product, thereby painting a more nuanced picture of the writers and the writing and editing processes involved in academic writing.

Oliver Shaw is a translator, editor, interpreter, and language instructor at the Hospital Universitario Fundación Jiménez Díaz and the healthcare-management firm idcsalud. He is based in Madrid, Spain.