Text editing: a handbook for students and practitioners

By Kris Van de Poel, Wannie Carstens and John Linnegar (published by ASP Editions, Brussels)

What is a text editor? What does the process of editing texts involve? What level of intervention is required for practitioners to make a text communicate effectively?

Text editing: a handbook for students and practitioners is a first for South Africa and will have an international appeal. It sets out to answer these questions directly and in the amount of detail appropriate to a work that describes the text editor’s complex craft. As the basis for answering the questions, the authors have adopted – and adapted – renowned Dutch linguist Jan Renkema’s text-evaluation model for the text-editing process, the elements of which form a leitmotiv that runs through the 12 chapters of Text editing.

Text editing is a North–South collaboration between two academics in the field of applied linguistics – Professor Kris Van de Poel of the University of Antwerp in Belgium’s Research Unit for Applied Language Studies and Professor Wannie Carstens, professor of Afrikaans linguistics and current director of the School of Languages at North-West University (Potchefstroom campus) – and a professional trainer of text editors and proofreaders in South Africa for more than a decade, John Linnegar, himself a text editor of long standing.

At once thoroughly researched and firmly grounded in modern editing practice, this comprehensive, highly accessible handbook covers many aspects of the text editor’s craft:

For the student of language practice or publishing studies it will prove to be an invaluable source of information about the profile of a text editor

  1. the types and levels of text editing as a process
  2. the many different roles that the text editor can play as a language practitioner
  3. the issues with which the editor has to deal, including plagiarism, copyright, defamation/libel and the question of ethics in editing practice generally the complex and comprehensive process that text editing is.

For the seasoned practitioner

  1. the systematic approach offered by Renkema’s model should prove to be as illuminating as the chapter on resources – with its lists of print and online references regarded as essential aids to the professional – and the extensive bibliography
  2. the new text on producing ebooks and digital media and on English as a lingua franca should open up new vistas to the more progressive or tech-savvy editor.

From the theoretical initial chapters through the nitty-gritty of intervening to improve the content, structure, wording, and presentation of various documents to the pièce de résistance that is the final chapter (where a group of text editors prove their mettle at critiquing and improving a selection of texts), this volume covers the whole gamut of the text editing process.

An English edition of this nature will attract an international readership and the authors have borne in mind the needs of two particular groups: English native-speakers who are likely to have to edit texts written by non-native speakers of English as a second or third language; and text editors who themselves are not native-speaking users of English. These are common phenomena with which text editors in South Africa have to deal regularly.
For the latter group the detailed treatment of the grammatical, syntactic, morphological, spelling and punctuation facets of the editor’s armoury should be particularly helpful.

In addition, the appendices of five brief exposés on a variety of Englishes and the pitfalls and challenges they present to text editors worldwide will be particularly helpful for those editing texts drafted by English non-native speakers.

The result is an expansive text that gives full recognition to the role of the text editor not only as such but also as proofreader, project manager, freelance, and in a wide range of other guises and situations. Editing for digital media and onscreen editing are also given appropriate consideration.
Subtitled A handbook for students and practitioners the editors believe it to be not only an important and useful point of entry into the profession of text editing but also an essential guide to practising editors who perhaps have not had any formal training in their craft. For both groups, the many lists, checklists, tabulated matter and diagrams will prove to be particularly supportive, making this an essential addition to the practitioner’s reference library.

Editor’s notes

Kris Van de Poel of the University of Antwerp (Belgium) Research Unit for Applied Language Studies is an applied linguist in the real sense of the word, always looking for challenges in the area of language in use. During her sojourns in Denmark and Scotland she ran a successful text-editing business called editek which aimed to make intercultural texts say what they were meant to say. Back in Belgium, she has guided translators and linguists along the slippery slopes of effective and professional communication, trying to raise their communicative awareness. Moreover, she has devoted much research time to text editing in academic and professional contexts, training materials for teaching, learning and self-evaluation.

Wannie Carstens, professor of Afrikaans linguistics and current director of the School of Languages at North-West University (Potchefstroom campus) in South Africa, has carried out some pioneering work on normative grammar and text linguistics. In the Text editing team he is the analytical reader and he has the most comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the theoretical and world literature on the topic. He has the unique capacity to absorb, digest and re-digest the literature on the topic in such a way that even the most intricate findings become accessible to an interested audience. His drive in teaching generations of students has ensured a place for qualitative text editing in the minds and professional lives of many of his graduates.

John Linnegar of McGillivray Linnegar Associates based in Cape Town is firmly rooted in the language practice within the publishing industry. Being a sought-after professional trainer of text editors, subeditors, proofreaders, project managers and indexers, John brings his hands-on experience in publishing and his abiding passion for language to Text editing. A strong advocate of professionalisation for practitioners in the field, he is immediate past chairman of the national Professional Editors’ Group and an associate of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders in the United Kingdom. A former schoolteacher, and also an inhouse copy editor/proofreader, subeditor, project manager for books and magazines, and a published author himself, he brings 30 years of experience to his role as co-author of the present volume.

What binds the three authors together is their passionate belief in the need for text editing to have solid foundations, at the same time acknowledging that theory is firmly rooted in practice and that in turn practice can be perfected through teaching and training.

Text editing chapter by chapter:
• Chapter 1 From language practice to model building: the foundations of text editing.
• Chapter 2 Text as a domain of text editing – an applied model.
• Chapter 3 The profile of a text editor.
• Chapter 4 Process and procedure: doing text editing.
• Chapter 5 The text editor and editorial project management.
• Chapters 6 to 10 Text editing in practice: content, structure, wording and presentation.
• Chapter 11 Resources.
• Chapter 12 Text editing in practice: the editors’ voice – a comparative analysis of texts.
• Extensive bibliography.

Dog Walk Diaries

I’m sick of my own opinions so let me tell you about the best part of my day, which is taking Sprite to the park. We can’t do this at the moment because the car is at the panel beaters, so let’s have an imaginary dog walk.

Into the car, tail wagging. Sprite’s barks grow sharper and I have to avoid her taking the wheel or indicating for me. Reach the park and she’s out before I have got one leg on the ground, and into the grass and air.

Greetings to Phillip, the bead and wire sculptor, currently at work on a monster gecko. Greetings to Gin and Tonic, the kind car guard who looks after lost dogs and children. Greetings to Valeria and the basket ladies from Swaziland, who tell me who is already in the park, don’t I want to buy my 10th laundry basket at a discounted price and will I give them a lift home afterwards? And then I obey the intense fox/wolf command of my border collie and start throwing the ball.

The park is like a clockwork village: you meet the same people at the same time at the same place.

Here’s Adam for instance, big, tall and tottering, wearing two hats, carrying a knobkerrie and hailing us. Straight away we are in his last current of conversation. Adam once studied to be a rabbi and he would have been a brilliant one, because he doesn’t judge, does listen and tells very good, evil-blasting jokes.

Like the time we were walking behind my friend and her doctor husband Karl, and were joined by a loud man who while talking about his recovery from a serious accident blurted out that he wished he was a German because Germans feel no pain. I had been concentrating on my ball throwing duties but started at that and Adam felt my start. “Let’s ask Karl” said Adam and so with perfect aim made loud mouth quiet, me laugh and nasty smell in air disappear. I like German jokes, said Adam the beatific, meet Herr Dresser.

Another time: walking with Digger the tough and wonderful Australian cattle dog and (after thought) his owner Peter. On our circuit meet a Popeye type, T-shirt sleeves rolled up to allow his biceps to expand. Popeye pulls on his dog’s lead and eyes Digger with aggression. “Your dog always goes for mine” he hisses. Adam, in mid-sentence turns, looks over his glasses and says “Must be personal then.” Popeye goes red and snorts and Adam sails on serene.

[NB All human names have been changed to protect their dogs from embarrassment]