I loved Richard Adin’s post at his “An American Editor” blog yesterday about how good editors find and adopt the writer’s unique style or rhythm. Beyond the technical skills and know-how, so much of editing requires an intuitive understanding of what the writer is trying to do and how it’s playing to the audience. To jump in and “fix” things without a feel for the writer’s natural style and rhythm would result in a manuscript that’s perhaps grammatically sound and professional-looking on the surface, but whose text is littered with discordant phrases, off-key sentences, and sour notes.
Here two lovely excerpts from Richard Adin’s article on how an editor must not compete with the author’s style but adopt it.
Every author, like every editor, has identifiable language foibles or traits that we generically call style. In editing, quickly identifying the author’s style or the style of a book, regardless of the number of contributors, is a key to getting into the manuscript’s rhythm. And when an editor can merge into the manuscript’s rhythm, the editing rises to a higher level.
… When we think of editing in terms of rhythm, we recognize that our rhythm competes with the author’s rhythm. If we let the rhythms compete, we distort the author’s tone and message because our rhythm will dominate. But if we make an effort to discover the author’s rhythm, we can adopt it as our own for the editing process.