On 20 June 2020, I held my first webinar on editing! The participants were a small group of volunteer editors who help publish BAMBI News, a monthly English-language parenting magazine.
The BAMBI News editors wanted to build their skills in editing articles written by people who are not professional writers, many for whom English is a second or third language, and are written for international readers.
I wanted to share how these editors might approach these articles in a systematic manner.
I covered two broad levels where we might think of editing:
- The building blocks: overall structure and flow.
- The words and sentences: plain language.
…and we practiced on a sample article.
Here are some highlights of what we talked about.
☘ The editor’s job = to help the reader
An editor has a lot of tasks to do. But I like to think that we serve the authors as an “educated/discerning reader.”
If we, as editors, don’t understand what the author is trying to say or we can’t follow the flow (the story, the logic), then it’s our job to gently help the author adjust their writing so that their message comes across clearly to the readers.
☘ The guiding principle is to do no harm
One of guiding principles for editors is to do no harm.
The worst thing we can do is to mess up the author’s writing. Heaven forbid we should change their meaning or introduce errors!
☘ Plain language is our friend
Writing in plain language is useful no matter what but it’s particularly important when writing for international audiences — e.g., the BAMBI News readership.
So we talked about some elements of plain language, such as using short words and sentences, avoiding acronyms/initialisms, finding the verb and cutting repetition.
Practice with examples
Thanks to BAMBI News‘s vast library of past articles, the participants could practice on a (slightly shortened) real-life draft.
We didn’t have enough time to actually polish it, but the participants identified the problem spots that didn’t quite make sense. They then thought about ways they might approach the text to give it a clearer storyline/logic.
We also practiced plain language tips with examples that are similar to what BAMBI News editors often come across.
Feedback from the participants
This was a very small group and the first time I’ve ever held a webinar on my own, so I was happy to get some good feedback.
Great learning experience in a friendly environment – Ema generously shared her knowledge and experiences, which was very helpful for someone who is new to editing. Also the interactive hands-on session also gives more effective learning outcome and an opportunity to learn from other participants.
This seminar was easy to understand for beginners, but it covered many topics and gave me the essence of editing and writing in English, which is not my native language.
I do enjoy doing trainings and hope to do more in the future!
For more about plain language, see
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