My Red Pen

I’m a writer. I can’t really remember ever not being a writer even if I didn’t do it regularly before my late teens. It’s in my blood.  And as a part of that I’ve been involved in Tenants’ Times for a while (a hyperlocal newspaper for people who get their housing through Soha Housing). Since June I’ve been editor and on Monday proof read the second edition I’ve edited.

It’s interesting and I mostly enjoy it.  We’re completely volunteer run which does make for some challenges and I tend to find the last few days before the deadline stressful. But on the whole it’s good – I enjoy working with the team, got back in touch with an old acquaintance because of it and I tend to learn things each time.

As part of being editor I have a funded place on the NCTJ Foundation Certificate in Journalism. That involves a one day session (10am – 3pm usually) once a month and some work in between times.  As yet that hasn’t covered anything to do with proof reading but has touched on gathering and recording information, writing a news story, writing for digital media and law for journalists (at a basic level)

So it’s fair to say that a lot of my time over the last few weeks has been spent writing (or looking at other people’s writing) and working out how to improve it. Does it make sense? If someone came to this completely new to the subject would they understand it? Are all the pieces going in to TT (as we call it amongst ourselves) in the house style? Is it factually correct? Are there repeated phrases or is it too wordy etc?

I feel like I’m good at those changes.  I’m not the only proofreader and some of the others are better at the nitty gritty of grammar then I am – that’s an area I could do with improving.  But everything gets looked at by at least one other person than me, sometimes two or three others. So all in all we do a good job.

One thing that’s tricky is knowing where the line is between making changes to a piece in order to make it fit the space (trim the odd word etc) or making it clearer and mutilating someone’s work so it’s not their own any more.  I’ve had that done to me and it sucks.

But now it’s done and TT is off to print in a few days. Time to switch off put my “red pen” (I do it electronically) away and take a break. Focus on blogging and the journalism course and maybe, just maybe, some fiction writing.

Only I still find myself thinking as an editor and itching the change things.  I read blogs a lot. I read several yesterday. I didn’t enjoy them as much as I usually would.  As I read the blogs I kept wondering “Does this achieve what they wanted it to?” and “oh repeated phrase there, they should change that.” and “Hmm could maybe have done with a bit more punch” etc.

I’m trying to comment more on the blogs I read but I think I better stay away from them until I do manage to put away my metaphorical red pen.


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