Why Writers and Editors are at the Precipice of Reality
You could say that an article about the importance of writers and editors written by an editor/writer is bound to be biased. And you would be correct in the sense that – as someone that works with words every day and is hyperaware of the power of a well-constructed sentence – I am a little biased.
The distinction really is just that, though – a question of awareness. Because irrelevant of your level of awareness, language is the construct through which we relate to the world – and words are our tools of creation. There is nothing else that we have complete autonomy over than our choice of words. It is the method through which we communicate our intentions to ourselves and others.
From a commercial perspective, it is the forum through which we communicate our ethos and demonstrate our value. Often times our success, both on a personal level and commercially, hinges on the ability to communicate a message as authentically as possible.
Language cannot really be isolated from experience – or (if you like) reality. We think in language; can we be said to have a thought independent of it? The philosophical question is outside the scope of this article, but it can be a useful perspective from which to contemplate the significance of language as it relates to reality/our experience of life.
Language is the filter through which we process our thoughts and our self-expression – the two mediums through which our experience of life is generated. You need not look far for research demonstrating this – one recent study indicated that we didn’t know ‘blue’ until fairly recently. For more food for thought on the power of language, enjoy this playlist from Ted.
If language is determinative of our reality, where does this leave writers and editors? Writers, being language innovators and creators of constructs (in the same way that architects design our physical constructs) are responsible for a whole lot. Eat Pray Love writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, created Bali as a suitable destination for soul searchers to go to ‘find themselves’. In business, writing creates the product or service – it doesn’t exist independently of description.
Editors have a philosophically interesting role. If we can say that writers are creators, editors are the ‘honers’, ‘tweakers’, and enhancers of reality. They wield considerable power in the creative process.
It is something that is always forefront in my mind as a copy editor of compliance publications. The level of skill and attention that I bring to my work make the difference between whether a message will land or not, and therefore whether a piece of knowledge will be woven into the fabric of the understanding of the reader, and become something which they can draw on and use to perform their jobs. In this way, it can be said that I am indirectly responsible for the levels of legal compliance in data protection in the UK.
Commercially, the impact of a good editor can mean the difference between a customer buying your product or not. This is not just the case in the pretentious world of publication, where a typo can cost you book sales. We cannot help but draw deductions from a sloppy spelling in advertising campaigns and marketing materials. It says something about the importance with which the company has accorded attention to detail. It is then for us to make a decision as to what that means about the product/service. The very open minded among us might not be influenced by it, but given that words are often all our consumers have to go on when they are making a decision as to whether to invest in us, it is negligent to say the least not to place our ‘best foot forward’.
These are just some of the reasons why writers and editors can be said to be at the precipice of reality.
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Rezzan Huseyin is an editor of professional compliance journals, writer about writing for Global English Editing, and proponent of ideas.