|The Relationship between Editors and Authors: A Lit Review Page 3 of 8|
|Written by Kelly Shackelford|
Research indicates that editors have at least five different ways to establish and maintain harmony with authors. Each side needs the other: without authors, editors would have nothing on which to practice their skills. Without editors, authors would be left without anyone to ensure that their writing aligns with accepted standards. As a result, they need to get along for the sake of their organizations, whether they work in a journalism or a scientific environment.
Editorial Techniques: Relationship
In order to work together harmoniously, editors and authors first need to have a relationship. Research conducted separately by Gerich, Hays, Mackiewicz and Riley, Thompson and Rothschild, and Wieringa indicates that editors should seek to develop and maintain relationships with authors. It is impossible to achieve any kind of relationship without interaction. In Gerich’s 1994 study, he found that the editors were housed in the same building as the authors so they could develop rapport and understand the scientific environment. Interaction helped them establish trust between the authors and themselves.
Thompson and Rothschild studied three editors working in a scientific environment. The editors successfully made efforts to communicate directly with the specialists in order to gain trust and approval for changes. Wieringa suggests that editors get to know new, unfamiliar authors, even if it means taking them out for lunch (103). Knowing the audience is important, but editors should also know authors, their styles, and what kind of changes they will allow editors to make.
Mackiewicz and Riley work from the standpoint that editors and authors already have a relationship. Editors have the power to influence this relationship for good or bad through the language of their editorial comments. Clear and polite communication is best, though it leads to the question of just how directly editors should write their comments: authors see editing as a threat to their self-image, so being told they need to make changes can bruise their egos. This leads into the issue of respect. If editors and authors cannot respect each other, they cannot work well together.
Editorial Techniques: Collaboration
The goal of a good relationship between editors and authors is collaboration. Beck, Bush, Eaton et al., Gove, Lanier (“Electronic Editing”), Mackiewicz and Riley, Speck, and Wieringa all indicate that the two sides can and should work together as allies. By cooperating, both editors and authors get input with the writing and can take advantage of each other’s best ideas.
Beck contrasts the publishing world, where editors and authors are encouraged to collaborate, with the business and education world, where authors are expected to go it alone. Editors need to dispel this myth and develop an attitude of cooperation with authors, producing a team atmosphere instead of an antagonistic one. Bush and Lanier (“Electronic Editing”) both support a teamwork atmosphere. Wieringa also supports the idea of teamwork, though he describes it as a three-way team consisting of editors, authors, and the audience.
Grove suggests that editors need to get clear instructions from authors on what the latter want, even to the point of recording the instructions for future reference. Her organization provided a style sheet for this purpose, which allowed successive authors to understand and work on the same document. She adds that both sides will benefit if the editors attempt to understand what authors actually did during their research, not just what they wrote about it.
Editors should serve as cooperative advisors rather than dictators, according to Mackiewicz and Riley. Instead of just telling the authors what changes to make, editors ought to work with the authors to help them understand the changes. Authors know what they are trying to say, and editors need to listen to their points of view. Speck says that editing and authoring are collaborative processes and that their respective authorities are linked. Neither side should entirely control the writing process.
Eaton et al. in their 2008 research found that some authors recognize the value of collaborating with editors. The authors like to talk problems over with editors and many like to have face-to-face meetings with editors during the editing process (121-122, 135).