Week 13: Editing & Coding

As a former managing editor, I have spent a great deal of my life editing, so I easily related to this week’s readings.  At my last job, I edited 2-4 weekly publications, online posts, and marketing material.  While I was using basic WordPress, I have encountered some of the issues mentioned in Dr. Jones’ Electronic Textual Editing.  At the time of publication, the authors contended, “At present, no single mark-up scheme is fully adequate to address these editorial complications” (Jones). While I image new programs have emerged, we are also living in a time where technology changes rapidly from day to day, week to week, and year to year.

Embarking on digital editing from a scholarly perspective means we are faced with balancing work as a librarian and as an encoder. While encoding may scare experienced and established editors, it’s actually not all that different.  To truly be a good editor is not as easy as it sounds.  It takes rigor and practice.  I was trained to copy edit in a professional setting, but by a woman with a Ph.D.  She was relentless and would re-edit and correct all my work.  Finally, at the end of the second month, it clicked for me; like Keanu Reeves, I could see the Matrix.  The errors lifted off the page and jumped out to me.  While few people are probably trained in this manner, there’s something to be said for constant practice and feedback.

As with any type of editing, as explained above, coding is essentially no different in terms of how to learn it.  A good coder/editor must be rigorous and constantly self-checking. Eventually the eye becomes attuned to paying close attention to the small details.  Really, all editing is in the small details.  However coding editing is not as easy as Word where what you see is what you get, as with coding there’s a layer beneath that also needs to be considered.

With all this being said, I am not sure social editing by amateurs is in the best interest of the data.  While, yes, crowdsourcing is free and likely better than OCR, I strongly believe there needs to be people overseeing projects (especially any project used for empirical or scholarly work).  As Price’s article pointed out, something so fine-tuned as Emily Dickenson’s dashes can be an area of debate.  Projects need consistency and uniform style.  If multiple people are working on data, they need a solid and easy to negotiate style sheet or default to an established style guide (APA, MLA, Chicago, Gregg, etc.).  Prince makes solid points that we need to adjust our methods to account for the future of editing and mutual exchange of information, but, in my opinion, this should be done through professionals, not amateurs.

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