23 November 2014
An EE user once described her task that day as: "Editing my editor's edit. I'm sure it has a name, but I don't know what it is."
"Editorial negotiations" is a good way to describe it. Here at EE, we know the frustration well from many years of sitting on both sides of the editor's desk. As researchers and writers, we write what we intend. We think it's clear. The editor disagrees and attempts a rewrite.
We're aghast. The editor's rewrite has introduced nuances that aren't accurate at all. We'd give all our royalties (as if we were getting any) to strike a pose like the foul-tempered Queen of Hearts and shout, "Off with their heads." But, of course, we don't do that because we want our work published. So what can we do?
We negotiate. We recognize that editors, peer reviewers, and writers are a team and that all must commit to teamsmanship if any of us are going to present material of lasting value.
Sins against writing have obviously occurred on both sides of the publication desk. We need to impartially consider the points the editor has made. We need to acknowledge, at least to ourselves, that if our meaning was not clear to the editor then it won't be clear to readers either. We thank the editor for all the revisions that haven't sinned against our intent. We tactfully point out whatever problems we see in the editorial revisions. We offer alternatives in each case—something that will satisfy both the editor's viewpoint and our own. And, where need be, we can tactfully defend what we feel should not be changed at all.
This kind of teamsmanship creates a triple-win situation. It's a win for the author. It's a win for the editor. And it's a win for all the people who will hereafter use whatever we have written. Unless, of course, we're Mark Twain.