Editors are invisible

I’m a working editor; I’m employed by one of the world’s largest engineering & construction companies on a government construction project. I used to work in market research, so I know how important MR surveys are to the companies holding them, and I participate as often as possible.

Never once, in almost twenty years of this habit, has a survey offered me a choice of “occupation” that included the words “editor” or “writer.” Even employee surveys lump the Publications group or department into “other office and administrative services.”

This is a society that made “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” a bestseller, where people can be self-publishers without resorting to a vanity press, when more words are published per day than were published in a year one century ago (a total guess, btw, but I think you’ll agree, a reasonable one). You might think that such a society would respect those who shape and polish words the way a gem cutter facets raw stones. You could expect that people would want their words, flung to the Internet, to show them to be erudite, witty, and touching – all things that require first that the text be free of distracting misspellings, typos, and mispunctuations.

But along with the “revolution” that allows anyone to publish came the hubris that tells people their work is just fine on the first draft. The ease with which anyone can do — well, what I’m doing now, has cheapened it. “Who cares if I misspelled something? It’s only a blog post/Facebook status/Tweet/comment…” Nothing written is “only” anything. The use of a language requires the user to be proficient and capable. Speaking is a natural part of humanity; we learn to talk because our brains are designed to learn languages. Writing is a taught thing. It creates a permanent record of an event and allows information to travel unaltered across miles and through centuries.

It’s also hard to do well.

Editors are, at best, tossed aside when all it takes to publish is an Internet connection, something becoming more common than a public restroom. The worst case is that we become invisible, with little remembrance.

Thanks for your attention while I whined and complained. I have to go back to removing Title Case From Sentences, bringing verbs into agreement with subjects, and checking that the “seven contributing causes” list actually has seven bullets in it.

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