How are editors perceived?

by Josephine Brown

Many people have a negative mindset about certain occupations. What’s your first thought when you hear:

  • used-car salesperson
  • journalist
  • barrister
  • tattoo artist
  • politician?

Forget soppy nonsense like, ‘My editor made me the good writer I am’. Turns out, people might have a negative mindset about those who practise our noble profession of editing.

Ever heard of The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work? It’s a book by Suzette Haden Elgin.  Josephine Brown

I hadn’t, until a friend drew my attention to a chapter in it called ‘Language and the Public Relations Domain’.

Under the subheading ‘Nonverbal Communication and Written Language’ is this gem:

Most people, when given the opportunity to review the written work of others, feel an irresistible temptation to change something. This is a way for them to demonstrate that they did read the material, that they gave it careful consideration, and that they have power over it and its writer. Making a change, be it ever so trivial, allows them to make a dominance display. This is as true when you submit two paragraphs to your company newsletter as it is for an article you submit to the most prestigious professional journal.

This is extremely important. Whenever you submit anything written — whether for publication or for presentation — salt it with items you don’t mind losing, set out prominently enough to attract attention. Your strategy is to maximize the chances that those will be axed instead of things that do matter to you. Always expect dominance displays; always provide for them. The more people there are who will examine your material, and the more they are likely to be struggling for power over one another, the more extensive the dominance displays will be. Plan for that. And give in graciously — but reluctantly — when your plan succeeds.

We’ve all heard the adage: No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.

But ‘salt it with items you don’t mind losing’… Seriously? 

Josephine Brown

Josephine Brown