(By Tayo Demola)
“A good editor must be versatile and adaptable. He must read wide on various issues and be willing to learn new styles of writing which keep evolving everyday as more authors emerge. Editors must be open-minded and dynamic in their editing style and should not necessarily expect all writers or authors to conform to a certain dogmatic style of writing. Every writer should be allowed to express himself in his own style of writing while the reading public can appreciate a writer based on the quality of his work.“
THE art of editing a book involves a whole lot of things depending on the editor. To edit a book, an editor is required to edit all the errors and make the book generally acceptable and appealing to the reading public. It could be a tasking job but when properly edited, a book that people would ordinarily disregard after reading can end up selling millions of copies in the market. That is what editing can do to any book and it is the job of the editor to remove or add anything that will affect the quality of the book as the case may be.
In editing, an editor will come across several styles of writing and presentation by authors and it is the duty of the editor to polish these writings to a certain level of maturity and acceptability such that the reading public will appreciate the works of such authors and yearn for more of their books. Editing requires a lot of hardwork and in the process of editing a book, an editor may be required to re-write the book and remove all the jargons therein.
Editing and proofreading are not the same because you can only proofread a book after editing it. Proofreading should be the last stage before finally going to press to publish a book. In proofreading, a proofreader majorly concerns himself with the spelling and punctuation errors but editing involves quite more than that. Editing requires a higher level of language use, grammar, proficiency, talent, thinking and imagination on the part of the editor who will read a book several times over and know what to do in order to make that book a masterpiece through editing. Therefore, it can be said that an editor is an excellent writer who is not only skilled and talented in writing but also in editing.
A good editor must be a good writer because it’s not possible for a person to edit books without being a writer himself. Is it possible for somebody to be a football coach without having been a footballer himself? If he coaches a football team, with what skill will he deploy in coaching them when he does not even know the nitty-gritty of playing football? The only way he can have an in-depth knowledge of football as an aspect of sports is for him to have been a footballer and not just being a footballer for the sake of it but a good one at that!
Is it possible for a person to teach others without having the rudimentary knowledge of whatever he is to impart? Whoever embarks on such ignoble journey has not only opened a gateway of embarrassment and scorn unto himself but would have ended up belittling himself before the very people he is to teach. You cannot give what you don’t have, so if you cannot write or even spot the slightest errors in any write-up, then it will be impossible for you to edit any book or claim you are an editor. A good writer can develop into an editor with talent, skill, training and practice. A good editor must be a voracious reader in order to devour several styles of writing to enhance his editing skills.
When you read some very powerful and captivating books, you will think the author is so excellently gifted in writing but alas that may not be the case because it is possible that the author just wrote down his ideas in a boring and uninspiring style but when the editor picked up the book, he deployed his editing skills to polish it to make it a masterpiece bestseller. A good editing work must generally start from the title to the last word of the book and anything that will hinder the message of the book from being properly understood by the reader must be removed by the editor. A good editor must look at the content, message, style, tone, and presentation, logical sequence of events and chronology of ideas as well as a whole lot of other elements which will make the book irresistible to the reader.
In editing articles, journals, magazines and newspapers, the editing skill needed is similar to that needed to edit books but not entirely the same. This is because a newspaper or magazine is somewhat transient but a book is more permanent in nature and books are more likely to stand the test of time than newspapers and magazines. In editing newspapers and magazines, the editor must preoccupy himself with editing several aspects of the articles, stories and features submitted by various writers and contributors which include the title, content, message, style, tone, presentation as so on. It is critical to note that a magazine or newspaper editor is usually subjected and restricted to the economic and socio-political philosophy or ideology of the publisher and such editor must ensure that all articles and write-ups are tailored to fit into a certain editorial style as directed by the publisher.
A good editor must be versatile and adaptable. He must read wide on various issues and be willing to learn new styles of writing which keep evolving everyday as more authors emerge. Editors must be open-minded and dynamic in their editing style and should not necessarily expect all writers or authors to conform to a certain dogmatic style of writing. Every writer should be allowed to express himself in his own style of writing while the reading public can appreciate a writer based on the quality of his work.
In Nigeria, editors will do better if they realise that they have a high stake in nation building and should not relegate their prestigious duties to the background. Nigerian editors and publishers should consistently and properly censure whatever material they are to bring out to the public and ensure that only the best material is eventually published. The Nigerian media is awash with too much sensationalised news reporting and little or no investigative journalism which should be the selling point of any credible media outfit. Virtually every news item is politicised or blown out of proportion by the media which should not be the case because the media is so crucial to national development that any modern nation cannot develop without the media. It amazes me the type of material, information and pictures which some media outfit publish which at times should not have been published in the first place. This calls for proper regulation of our media laws by the government and sanction for those who violate the required standard in publishing. Morality has been thrown to the dustbin by many newspapers and magazines in Nigeria that publish pornographic and half nude pictures of women and young girls just to sell their paper. The media should also refrain from publishing materials that are defamatory and outright falsehood calculated towards character assassination of a person which is presumably the hallmark of Nigerian politics. Every Nigerian has the right not to be defamed in any way and it is the duty of editors to ensure that materials brought before them are properly scrutinised and authenticated before going to press.
Therefore, editors, publishers and the media generally have a great and indispensable role to play in national development and it is their duty to ensure that their responsibility is not compromised, for the sake of posterity.
• Demola is public affairs analyst and director/CEO, Book Editors Nigeria, Lagos.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”