When I worked as a journalist, one of my jobs was sub-editing. This meant checking the copy of reporters, designing pages and writing headlines. It demanded an attention to detail which I didn’t always have.
I was once dealing with a story about GEC in Rugby – one of the town’s biggest employers – which had just won a huge contract. This was big news for the thousands of people working for the company, meaning new jobs or job security.
The headline, “GEC wins £100m contract” seemed fairly straightforward. It was going on the front page and would be read by, potentially, our 50,000 readers at the time. The headline fitted, I saw it on the ‘light tables’ at Leamington Spa where the paper was put together (this was before we used computers). I checked the page. Others checked the page. Then it was signed off with the all-important signature at the corner of the page with a blue pen which was invisible to the reader. The job was done.
The only problem was that neither I, nor the many others, who saw this page noticed that the ‘m’ was missing from the headline which read: “GEC wins £100 contract”. It was laughably bad but the whole editing process had failed.
The process of editing a book is a long and winding road. I know because I have just co-edited the Rugby Cafe Writers’ anthology with our group’s founder, Theresa Le Flem. I read the contributions to the 260-page book as they came in. Theresa read them. Theresa’s husband read them. But despite our best efforts, there were still more than a dozen errors found by our friend and group member Jim Hicks once the paperback was published.
Editing is a really important process because it is very difficult to spot errors in your own work. It still amazes me how best-selling books, produced by high-profile authors and publishers, can still contain glaring errors.
So, for the next meeting of Rugby Cafe Writers, the topic is the process of editing. How important is it to you? Do you have any good or difficult stories to share? Can editors be too picky? What annoys you about the way books have (or haven’t) been edited?
We hope you will join us for the next meeting of the Rugby Cafe Writers online on Friday July 31st at 10am. If you haven’t been before and would like to come, please send us an email on: firstname.lastname@example.org John Howes
Videos and books mentioned in our discussion: