Remember how, decades ago, we imagined that labour-saving devices such as washing machines, driers, vacuum cleaners and dishwashers would mean we’d have lots of extra leisure time? But somehow, it didn’t work out that way. I think there’s a similar situation in editing, in that we now have lots of different tools to make editing more efficient, yet editing seems to take just as long.
I was pondering this situation as I prepared to give a workshop last week at the Australasian Medical Writers Association (AMWA) conference in Melbourne. The workshop focused on various tools and add-ins for use with MS Word (PerfectIt, Editor’s Toolkit, ReferenceChecker and PhraseExpress), the quick access toolbar, keyboard shortcuts, navigation with the ‘Select Browse Object‘ button, and use of styles and templates.
Perhaps the answer to the conundrum is right there, in the array of different software and related expertise needed to do a good job. When editors worked on hard copy, their input was limited to marking up changes. However, now that we mostly edit onscreen, we can provide so much more: sophisticated page layout; automated numbering of headings, figures and tables; references that can be changed from number to author-date style at the touch of a button; documents that work in print and onscreen; and so on. In turn, the expectations of what the editor will provide have increased, particularly now that budgets are often tight and traditional roles of proofreaders and typesetters have all but disappeared.
Do tools and programs such as Word make the editor’s job easier or are they just a way to keep up with client expectations, what do you think?