Editing isn’t just adding commas, “undangling” participles, and checking whether “affect” is used effectively.
Editing is helping clients to organize their thoughts and create from them clear and effective prose that reaches out and speaks to their target audiences.
The editor isn’t just a teacher with a red pen; the editor is a soundboard, upon which the clients’ ideas can be bounced, kneaded, and sculpted until their stories can be understood loudly and clearly.
I am just finishing up work on a thesis, the topic of which, I must admit, was way beyond my ken. Really, before I started checking out Wikipedia, I thought the guy had his topic backwards. (Due to non-disclosure, I can’t reveal the topic, but it’s kind of like the difference between “Dancing Snake” – the snake doing the dancing – vs. “Snake Dancing” – being a style of dance.) Of course, I did my share of conjugating his verbs and correcting spelling, and I hope I got them all! (And I probably missed a few.) But I think that the most important contribution can be seen from the following email that he sent me after he received his (gulp) bill:
I much appreciate your work and effort. I think that without your help I would not have been able to conclude the thesis as quickly, and quite likely would still be struggling with converging the document towards a conclusion. The interaction itself has much contributed to keeping pace, and getting it done, something that goes much beyond the editing help itself.
The cost is higher than I anticipated… I think for our next project, it will be important to make the hours you accumulate visible to me, … so I can know when we are… close to reaching the limit…although I don’t know right now what I would have done with that knowledge. (My emphasis.)
The most important thing is that with your help I managed to complete the thesis write-up — and the feeling to be there is quite indescribable. Once I find work, the difference in cost will hopefully be quite insignificant.
To my defense, all costs and charges were plainly laid out in the contract; the work was just much more than he even anticipated. And I didn’t even count in the conversations we had on Skype; and there were many, though much of them also included recipes and comparing the antics of our offspring.
To my credit, I have allowed him “unlimited time and installments, within reason” to complete payment. To his credit, he sent me his first deposit in the mail before I even looked at his first page, and I trust him implicitly that I will eventually get my full remuneration. (Well, not exactly before looking, as I had, of course, done a sample page for him. But that doesn’t count.)
One of those jobs that gives me, also, an indescribable feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.