By Jane Matthews, EdANZ
As Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was head of state for Australia and Sovereign of Aotearoa New Zealand, it is appropriate to acknowledge her recent passing. As editors, we can take many leaves from this remarkable woman’s book.
Some of us may remember a time before the Queen ascended the throne, but for many of us, she is the only monarch we have known. She has been a constant in our lives. She took a consistent approach to her role, providing a sense of stability. As editors, we should aim for consistency when marking up manuscripts.
Throughout her 70-year tenure, the Queen was dedicated to the monarchy. To run a successful business, editors must be dedicated to finding work, editing manuscripts to a high standard and completing our work within agreed timeframes.
Courtesy and composure
Her Majesty always appeared polite and composed. She minded her Ps and Qs, as we editors should.
The Queen recognised that gloom feeds upon gloom. The opposite is also true. Smile and others will return your smile. Make time in your life for fun.
A sense of humour
The Queen was renowned for her sense of humour. Let’s be honest, we need a sense of humour to work with some documents we are presented with, even though they are not meant to be comic.
Over her long career, Her Majesty dealt with adversity and sometimes had to deliver bad news. As editors, we may also have to deliver news a client doesn’t want to hear. Channel the Queen’s courage and tact.
The Queen was a master of the stiff upper lip. She was stoic in times of adversity. It is not always easy being an editor. Finding work can be difficult and some clients or assignments are challenging. Essentially, the job entails making writing easily accessible to readers. Sometimes the editor and the author have different ideas of what that looks like. As we editors are often sole proprietors, we must be resilient.
While regularly making herself accessible to the public, the Queen set clear boundaries about how and when that happened. Editors need to do the same so that we don’t end up spending hours having coffee or providing free writing advice.
When she launched the official celebrations for her golden jubilee, the Queen said: “Change has become a constant; managing it has become an expanding discipline. The way we embrace it defines our future.” She moved with the times and was always prepared to learn. To remain current as editors, we need to keep abreast of evolving technology and changes to language and grammar conventions.
Queen Elizabeth II was a great advocate for exercising in the fresh air. While we don’t all have horses and large estates to ride them on, a brisk walk may be all we need to stretch our limbs and get our blood pumping. It is easy to forgo exercise when a deadline is looming. Getting away from the computer and getting some vitamin D from the sunshine really benefits our health, but like the monarch, we should wear a hat to protect ourselves from the harsh down-under sun.
The Queen kept a detailed and up-to-date diary – or someone else did on her behalf. Writing down appointments and deadlines helps us editors meet our obligations and spread our workloads.
Being an egoless clear communicator
The Queen was a clear communicator. Communication can solve most problems between an editor and author. In describing the Queen, her assistant private secretary and communications secretary from 2007 to 2018 Sam Cohen wrote: “It is rare to find a human being who is selfless – devoid of ego . . .” Don’t let your relationships with your clients deteriorate into a battle of egos. Remember, the editor’s job is to make the author’s writing accessible to the reader.
Passion and compassion
The Queen was both passionate and compassionate. English writer HG Wells said: “No passion in the world, no love or hate, is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” We always need to be compassionate when we suggest changes to authors’ manuscripts.
Discretion was no doubt a watchword for Her Majesty, and it should be for us editors too.
Demonstrating decisive leadership
The Queen was often required to boldly go (or to go boldly if you can’t bear split infinitives) into uncharted territory. She showed decisive leadership. As editors we need to show leadership when authors are unaware of conventions, while remaining compassionate.
Queen Elizabeth II has set a great example to us all. May she rest in peace.