The five worst things about being an ELT editor

Disclaimer: I do enjoy my job, but it is the most miserable month of the year. And this post about ELT editing was incredibly peppy, even by my standards. Let’s retain a sense of balance!

  1. Explaining what an editor does. What do they do? They ‘edit’! But editing doesn’t necessarily mean proofreading, and nor does being an editor mean that you can edit anything. In the last month I’ve been asked to content edit some Russian language newspaper articles (!), as well as edit a short film. I’d love to do both of those things, but neither of them have anything to do with my actual job. And I’m not convinced I’d be that helpful.
  2. Giving negative feedback. I’ve heard on the grapevine that this doesn’t necessarily get easier with experience. No one really likes to hear criticism (if they say they do, they’re lying!), and it can be even harder if an author or editor delivers a draft that obviously took a lot of time and effort but still needs a considerable amount of work. Constructive criticism is the key! An overbearing amount of editorial corrections using Track Changes is not (as I learned the hard way).
  3. Finding grammatical errors everywhere. Unfortunately it’s hard to leave the editor brain in the office! I’m really fun at parties.
  4. Seeing the wrong books in the wrong hands. So much work goes into making sure that teaching materials are appropriate for a particular market, or students with a specific need, that it can be frustrating when course books appear in an unintended context. Often this is somewhere geographically inappropriate – for example, a textbook aimed at teens in Europe ends up with adults in a developing country. Unsurprisingly, these two groups of people might not have a lot in common: a Slovakian fifteen year-old’s moral dilemma is quite likely to be a middle-aged Cambodian office worker’s ‘first-world problem’. The result? Both teachers and students are dissatisfied, and no one learns as well as they could.
  5. Always finding another mistake. Ask any editor. No matter how many times you have checked a book, and no matter how many times you have asked other editors to check a book, you will always find an error in your advance copy. You just have to pray that it isn’t on the cover…

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