The coffee kvetch turned out a light crowd last night. I thought perhaps it was the sunny weather that made people stay away, but this morning’s e-mails revealed a collection of apologies for the minor personal tragedies and conflicts that kept people from meeting. Myself, I was tempted by a sudden invite to a family dinner, but since I’m the instigator of the club, I felt like I ought to show up.

Oh yes, and I apologize to James and Julian for offering to drive them home and then almost getting into an accident with a near-horrendously timed turn. There was silence in the car all the way to James’ parents house; y’all were frozen with horror methinks. Being nervous that you already thought I am a bad driver made me make a stupid decision.

I guess I’m just not one for inspiring confidence in people, even when it’s something I’m normally good at. For example, I like to think I’ve got a pretty good sense of direction. But when I’m with a group of people and we’re all going some place that I know the location of, no one believes me that I know the way.

This confidence/competence thing really shows up when I take on an editing job. Recently, I had a gig editing a cookbook. And it occurs to me that editing is not just correcting stuff (spelling grammar, punctuation), it’s making decisions and recommendations about the text. Pretty heady stuff – and you have to have confidence in order to do it. Hell, correcting shit is easy. You have to stick by your decisions, and defend them if necessary. Also, if someone doesn’t like the decisions you made, too bad. They still have to pay up.

More than just about any other group of professionals, editors like to wring their hands about the need for their services, particularly when it comes to writing for the Web. Just last weekend, the Freelance Writing Jobs blog ran a guest post by Karen G. Anderson asking “Is Copy Editing Extinct?” Does anyone care?

In recent years, I’ve been working as a marketing writer for websites. It’s a different universe. For the best of those sites, people review my copy to make sure it’s logical, accurate, grammatical, and free of obvious spelling errors. For the worst of them, one harried web content producer glances over the copy to make sure it’s beem written in English with complete sentences. There’s never a copy editor. No one notices or cares if various writers working on the site use different styles for serial commas, hyphenation, or dashes. If errors are introduced in the final phase of the reviewing (such as extra words or missing words), the text goes live that way and stays that way, sometimes for weeks, until someone notices.

Is the traditional, stickler copy editor needed in the big Webby world, if only similarly picky editors are the only ones who notice errors? Maybe not. However, asserting that just because every writer now has access to a publishing platform there should be no editors is just plain wrong. Or similarly, that every writer must be their own editor as well. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Writing and editing are two different functions which should not be done at the same time. (I know because my writing brain is constantly being clouded by my editing brain.) And no matter how much you critique your own work, there’s no one quite like an editor for pointing out the things in your blind spots.

Trust me, I’m an editor. And 99.9% of the time, an excellent a good driver too.

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