MET workshops

“It needs only a ‘light’ edit”: negotiating the differences between light, medium and heavy editing

Workshop facilitator: John Linnegar
Until 2010, like many other editors, John had little idea of how to distinguish between the nuanced three levels of editing (and that after 30 years in the game!). Then he began researching the subject, only to find that less than a handful of authors had written about it! It’s their ideas – plus his own guide to how possibly to quantify the levels in specific editing tasks – that he will be sharing and workshopping, using a set of real texts.

First, the different levels of editing or revision – light, medium and heavy/extreme, as described or labelled by leading authors on the subject – will be explained. Then, by examining the extent of the errors that need correcting in eight brief texts, participants in this workshop will gain a more informed, hands-on idea of how to distinguish between the different levels of editing or revision and, consequently, begin to do so with greater confidence. John will also share his technique for quantifying the level of editing involved, based on the number of corrections performed on a sample of a text.

Although the session will be English-language based, the guidance from the editing gurus he cites applies to all languages, writers and writing. From this workshop, editors and translators (as revisors) will take away a set of criteria that will help them distinguish the different levels, especially when having to justify the level of editing or revising required – and its related fee and deadline – to clients.
What prominent authors on the subject have to say...
Authors with a reputation for submitting well-prepared manuscripts, or who are likely to be hostile or hypersensitive to more major changes, will often request only a light edit (whatever that means), and the text editor’s billable hours will be expected to reflect this. Medium editing is naturally the norm to which most manuscripts conform (Merriam-Webster 2001: 235), and usually comprises two passes (Einsohn 2000: 16; Mackenzie 2011: 168). Heavy editing conveys broad latitude to shape the manuscript’s language and content components (and a little structural editing) (Davies & Balkwill 2011: 170; Einsohn 2000: 12; Mackenzie 2011: 169). It is used if a work is in need of significant improvement, usually in the opinion of either the commissioning editor or sometimes the text editor (Davies & Balkwill 2011: 170). When this decision is taken, the next question that arises is: Will the author be capable of making the book accceptable to its target audience or should a detached professional text editor be asked to undertake the necessary improvements? (But how often don’t clients expect to get away with a "light" edit on a dog of a text!)

About the facilitator: John Linnegar has been a text editor, writer and indexer for 35+ years and a developer of house style guides for clients. Trainer of editors since 1999: basic/advanced copy editing and proofreading; indexing; English grammar for editors; book design and production fundamentals; editing law texts; editing maths and science; editing for academic purposes; writing/editing for the Web. Author of several publications on editing- and language-related topics, including Text Editing (UPA, 2012) and guides for the Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG, South Africa): Consistency (House Style); The Business of Editing and Marketing your Freelance Services. Member of several societies of editors including Canberra/IPEd, MET, PEG (former Chair) and SENSE. Special interest: mentoring editors; current postgraduate research on mentoring editors online.