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? 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.
A few years ago I gave a workshop to fellow editors on various add-ins for use with MS Word (e.g. PerfectIt, Editor’s Toolkit, and PhraseExpress), and on tools within Word itself (e.g. the quick access toolbar, keyboard shortcuts, and the 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; 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 quicker and easier, or are they just a way to keep up with client expectations, what do you think?