Editors, let us be heard!

At the tail end of this year's ITA AGM, an important subject came up for discussion: Editors. Are they adequately represented by the ITA? Should they be? If the ITA is designed to encompass editors as well as translators (which I always assumed it was), does it do so successfully? If not, what should be done about it and by whom? Should editors have their own association? Should they belong to both associations? Should more editors join the ITA? Should they be heard more? Should the ITA have more editor-oriented activities? Should the ITA's name explicitly reflect the fact that it represents editors, too?

The subject seemed to take some people in the audience by surprise. Personally, I had never given it much thought, because I am both an editor and a translator and have always felt perfectly at home in the ITA. My presentations at ITA conferences were mostly from the point of view of an editor, but were just as helpful to translators as to editors, if not more so. And a propos presentations – I may take Kelli Brown's advice and upload said presentations onto SlideShare.

Just like translators constantly have to educate clients and drill it into their heads that translation is a profession and a skill, (rather than just "typing the text in a different language",) so do editors. Most people are not aware that written material – be it original text or a translation, a letter to the Authorities or a school paper – needs editing. Even translation agency employees are often in the dark. The [usually] young people who work there were never taught the difference between, say, proofreading, light editing, heavy editing, re-writing and even copywriting. As a result, they don't know how to explain things to prospective customers, who would rather not pay extra for editing. (Whether customers are charged extra for editing or whether editing is included in the cost of a translation job is a different story.) A veteran employee at The Gang begged me to please-please "write something" that would explain to her "girls" what editing was all about. Another agency I sometimes do work for has more than once sent me a text, asking for "proofreading", whereas it quickly turned out that the text actually needed serious editing.

In brief: Editing needs good PR. The nature of editing needs to explicated. The need for editing should be crystal-clear to all; it should go without saying. But since so far it isn't and it doesn't, let's jump in and do it: let's all chip in and educate the world about editing. Okay – not the world… but whoever you can, to the extent that you can. We should help the ITA promote us, and we should help ourselves.


Unknown said...

At least 3 of us in the ITA are, in addition, long-standing members of the STC, the Society for Technical Communication. Six years ago (give or take) the ITA and STC Israel held their conferences side-by-side at the same venue. On the one hand, it was a great opportunity to take advantage of those points where professional interest, or even just professional curiosity, overlaps. On the other hand, it was obvious that the overlap is no more than partial and the organizations decided they were better off holding their conferences separately. Luckily it was only a date and not a marriage or adoption. Similarly, I think that although some people work both as translators and as editors, the community of translators and the community of editors are not the same community and would not be happy in close cohabitation. The ITA, for example, takes for granted everyone's strong commitment to the interests of freelancers. I think only a few translators are fulltime salaried workers but more than a few editors are. Moreover, the many sessions at the ITA conference that consist of war stories about translating particular texts would hold little interest for a lot of editors; would we want the editors trying to lay claim to a larger percentage of the time slots at the expense of translation lectures? I'd say that if they're a big enough community to justify distracting the ITA from translation matters, they should be big enough to set up their own organization, rather than trying to leverage the ITA. Then we could each decide, as individuals, whether or not to join that organization. - Mark L. Levinson

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