Shaping the manuscript through editing

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BY KOFI BOATENG

Getting the right information to a reader or consumer of books is of much essence. In view of this, books are supposed to disseminate the right information, and should be devoid of ambiguity so as not to create confusion in the minds of readers. Often, some books or publications may have interesting titles or catchy covers, but the content might not be what we hoped for. We then wonder, if the book was really edited before it was published, or who could be blamed for the inconsistencies, grammatical errors or the confusion.

Before the book as a product is displayed on the shelve, the manuscript, which is vital, has to go through a process of transformation.
It is very necessary for corporate publishing firms or self-publishers to have their books thoroughly edited before they are published. Editing is a way of adding value to the books before they are produced. It is the process of shaping or rendering an author’s manuscript in such a manner that is suitable to the target readers.
Book editing is mainly classified into two forms. These are macro editing (developmental or substantive editing) and micro editing. Macro editing is that form of editing which deals with editing the overall structure of the manuscript. It deals with ensuring accuracy of facts, consistency and clarity of content, appropriateness of language used, correcting pacing, and a swift flow of writing style. Micro editing, on the other hand, deals with completeness of the manuscript. That is, micro editing involves checking grammar, syntax, capitalization, spellings, punctuation, acronyms and abbreviations, fonts, headings and captions. Both copy editing and proofreading are part of micro editing, and are done after macro editing and before the book is finally published.
It is required that every publisher has a house style manual, as part of ensuring standards in the production of books in the country. The house style manual should provide all necessary guidelines to authors and editors, in line with accepted standards in book production. Editors must ensure an ascetic application of a publisher’s house style. That is, it is the duty of an editor to present to readers an author’s work or idea clearer and with accuracy. Basically, editing links readers to the author of a book.
Book publishers must seek versed and qualified persons to work on a manuscript. Editing can be done in-house or commissioned. Whichever it may be, it must be done meticulously. It is important to emphasize that, the work of an editor is not to trash an author’s work, rather it is to polish the manuscript without altering the philosophy and vision of the author.
A good editor should have a command over the language a manuscript is written in, as well as be an expert in the genre of book or the subject area of the manuscript. Furthermore, a professional and qualified editor should be well-balanced and organized, passionate, empathetic, well-informed, dedicated, unbiased, eagle-eyed or vigilant.
The work of editing must cover every single page of the book, that is, from the first page of the front matter, through to the last page of the back matter of the book. In as much the book block goes through editing, so must the book cover or book jacket. Often, some grammatical errors are spotted either at the spine of the book or at the back cover (blurb and about the author).
In conclusion, editing must not come as option in the book publishing process, rather it must be part of the book production. Since we expect to have our locally published books meet international standards, there is the need to ensure that editing, which is an integral part of the book production chain, is not exempted. This is one of the surest ways to ensure that consumers of books get value for the books they buy and read. Editing may be expensive and time consuming, but surely it is worth it. The cost of not paying heed to it is more expensive.

The writer is the Production Services Manager, Ghana Book Development Council

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