Sunday, November 23, 2014

A rant about editing

I'll have to keep this post fairly oblique, but let me state on the record that I am most likely not going to accept any more work editing MA theses. It's a shame, too, because it's good work and I've had mostly positive experiences. But the bad apples are so, so bad, and I can never see them coming.

I've had someone tell me (via someone else; way to be passive-aggressive) that after I edited a thesis s/he was helping supervise, it still had some problems, which betrays a misunderstanding of what, exactly, an editor can do. Hint: she can edit. She cannot completely restructure a thesis's ideas and content and language to be amazing, at least not when the source material is shoddy to begin with.

More recently, and the deal-breaker for possibly all thesis editing work from now on, is being treated like what I am doing is unskilled labor. I have only had this problem with theses in a certain field. In the very recent past, I had someone question what I charge per hour for what is often tedious, painstaking work that requires an intense attention to detail and the finer points of the English language. Then, when I was finished working according to their tight deadline and neglecting my family and my other TWO jobs in the process, they questioned how many hours it took me. (Hint: the longer it took me, the more problems your thesis had. Though in some cases, perhaps including this particular one, it was more formatting problems than English problems.) Then, they questioned some of the changes I made, even when I had this field's codified style guide to back me up. If you want me to do things the way your professor likes it, instead of the way the industry at large likes it, please tell me before hour one, not after hour twelve.

Now I just have to hope this person deigns to pay me. I wish people could understand that while having your thesis edited is a hoop you have to jump through (in these parts, anyway - the quality of some was so bad that this university made it a requirement for some programs), it is a hoop manned by an really edumacated person with a particular set of skills.

Anyway. I know I sound like a huge jerk, but someone else was a huge jerk to me today and I guess this is what it makes me do.


Susanne said...

I'm sorry, Bridget! I've had a couple ESL friends ask me to look over job resumés or application letters to make sure their English was correct, and I had to totally revise paragraphs because they didn't just have small grammar errors. I can't imagine doing what you've had to do. I'm sorry someone treated you this way. Obviously this person doesn't know you because you give 100% in all that you do. (I can tell from just reading your blog all these years.)

Kathy Haynie said...

No good no good. So sorry. S/he didn't realize how blessed they were to have YOU as an editor! Thank you again for giving me feedback (for free!!!) on my master's thesis 3 years ago. You are amazing.

Nancy said...

Freelance editing can be quite...irking. I agree.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Sheesh, perhaps there should be a seminar on what an editor can do for you, so expectations are not unreasonable. If the person doesn't pay do you have any recourse within the university? Is there a version of small claims court over there?

Bridget said...

Thanks for the support!

Hannah said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this. I've never worked as an editor, but half of my current position is helping at the writing center where I work. A lot of the problems I see are very much related to the content (lack of a thesis statement, paragraphs that don't support the argument, flimsy ideas, etc.) I try to talk those things over with the students, but I agree that for those of us who are helping, whether as editors or writing center instructors, there is only so much that we can do to make some of this work amazing.

Liz Johnson said...

Do you think I can send roadkill internationally? Because if so, feel free to pass on the address of this monster.


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