Editor’s life: Chopping block

Published: March 15, 2011
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The idea is to make what appears in print clear and easy to read, and with no punctuation or spelling errors.

In the course of my daily work, I have to do considerable amounts of editing. This involves not only deleting material, but also at times massively chopping it. This is done primarily for reasons of space, word count issues and sometimes policy as well.

The idea is to make what appears in print clear and easy to read, and with no punctuation or spelling errors. I would categorise my editing process into five distinct phases.

Denial: Having to cut a 1,000-word press release down to a 70-word brief? I’ll grow old editing this, I tell myself. Maybe if I just keep working on this nice chunky court story, someone will decide we don’t need a brief about some embassy wheeling its way into some other embassy’s good books…

Anger: Why me?! Why can’t the annoying new guy do it instead? They just called a ‘career’ a ‘carrier’. Brilliant. Why in the world do they have to mention the name, rank, designation and the name of parents, twice removed for every single person at the party?

Bargaining: Ok, maybe if I just remove this bit about how incredibly awesome everyone at the party was and keep this bit about how they ate chicken tempura… And this important-sounding person doesn’t need three ranks, I’m giving him just one.

Depression: Time to check the word count, I must be almost done now…500 words?! Good lord. I can’t do this. I’ll never be an editor. My eyes will pop out of my skull before I finish this. I’ll die alone. Wearing my failure-of-a-football-club’s jersey. Is it just me or is this computer screen closing in on me?!

Acceptance: Ok lets just get this done. Its been 30 minutes. It is time for drastic measures. Just cut that paragraph about the foreign children singing patriotic songs. Oh look…70 words. That wasn’t so bad now was it.

Husna Anwar

Husna Anwar

A sub-editor for the Karachi pages of The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.