Monday, April 10, 2017
After I published last week's post, I heard from a few of you in person and by email. You expressed support and sympathy. And you had stories of your own. Those communications motivate this post.
There are, in my view, rules of etiquette that apply to editing academic and professional work for publication. It seems that I am not the only one who holds this view. With articles and posts titled, e.g., Editing Etiquette and Editor Etiquette, a number of others in the writing and editing biz have ideas on how editors should behave in their interactions with writers. And my key observations about best practices in law review, law journal, and law textbook editing echo theirs. Here are my "Top Three" rules of editing etiquette for law publications.
- Always show the author where changes to the text have been made. This typically means sending the author a blacklined version of the work. Once the give-and-take of the editorial process is under way, the backline should indicate whether changes suggested by the author have been accepted and where new changes suggested by the editor have been implemented/added. Recently, a law review sent me a backline that was made from a clean draft and showed all of the changes made on the document as changes made by the editor (when, in fact, some were changes requested by me that the editor had transferred to the clean draft). Since I wanted to ensure that the changes I had suggested were, in fact, made, I had to locate the marked draft I had last sent to the law review and compare it to the blackline sent to me by the law review. Here's what I advised the law review editor:
"Although the backline was somewhat helpful, . . . it didn’t show which of the changes adopted were mine and which were yours since you made all of the changes on a clean draft. To know which of the changes were mine, I needed to look at yet a third draft, which makes the review more complex. Just a thought for the future—that making your edits on the draft that the author has marked up, rather than on a clean draft, facilitates author review. Admittedly, I still am concerned that I missed something that I need to review more carefully in the changes you made."
- When making changes to the wording in the text, strive to retain the author's voice and explain the reason for any change made. I once had a law review staff member change the word "everyman" to another word that had but a small fraction of the same meaning. The reason for the change was never offered. I wrote back and patiently explained that the word choice was quite purposeful and pointed--expressing my specific intention to reference "an ordinary individual with whom the . . . reader is supposed to be able to identify easily." The original wording was restored. But my time in editing (and earlier theirs) had been wasted.
- Justify for the author any requests for additional footnotes or citations. I have had law review editors and staff ask me for citational support for topic sentences that introduce or summarize the contents of the paragraph; same for conclusion sentences including similar content. I also have had editors and staff request citations for my unique contributions--e.g., observations on the law or extant literature. (Yes, I know that these are often hard to identify . . . . But just ask!) After last week's post, one of you offered: "I kept cutting footnotes and they kept adding them back. Very frustrating."
I will spare you all the additional details. I think you can see where these ideas are headed. I will end with a helpful thought that one of you shared with me--a thought that I and others here on the BLPB have shared in the past when writing about the law review editorial process: "I try to think of my exchanges with law review editors as part of my teaching job, aiming to show them how to edit properly and deal with 'clients' (if you will) . . . ." The publication process will work out just fine in the end if we can embrace those teaching moments and remember that we all are working toward the same objective: a quality, published piece of scholarship.