Editors Edit

We’re in the beginning stages of production for the second issue of The Appalachiana, the quarterly newsletter of the Southern Appalachians Genealogical Association (SAGA). I already have two articles for the upcoming issue, one of which is ready for print. The other is undergoing revisions based on editorial suggestions. When I finished marking up the draft, I thought, as I always do, that the author would be pretty ticked at all the red ink. Fortunately, I’m dealing with an experienced author who understands the editorial process.

The way I see it, my editorial hat contains several tricks, including maintaining a consistent style across the entire publication, finding holes in the article that need to be filled, and, above all, helping the author take a so-so or good article and make it really great. The main objective is to have a newsletter that readers will find useful and interesting. The best way to do that is to have well-written articles, and to achieve that goal, I must pull out my red pen and edit.

Editing is not personal. It is not a sign that the author is a bad person, or a bad writer, or a bad researcher. In fact, just the opposite. If an editor takes the time to go through your manuscript, it probably means that he likes what he sees and has confidence in your abilities. It takes a lot of time to properly edit a work. It’s an investment, really, of the editor’s time, just as writing the manuscript was an investment of the author’s time.

As an editor, I have a duty to put together the best publication I can for SAGA’s members. Authors can disagree with the writing style I prefer, or with the type of content I want to feature in The Appalachiana, and of course, they have the freedom to seek publication elsewhere. (In fact, I’m usually happy to help authors find a home for their work, although that shortly may not be necessary.)

But authors who believe that their manuscripts do not need editing have an unrealistic view of the publishing process. Sure, there are plenty of editors who will accept submissions as-is. But I’m not one, and neither are the editors of the publications we hold up as models, such as the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the NGS Magazine.

Writing and editing go hand in hand. Writers write, editors edit, and the end result is usually a very good thing.

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