Editors must consider and balance the feelings of two groups of people when suggesting language changes: firstly, they must consider how the reader will react to the language of the original manuscript; and secondly, they must consider how the author will respond to the suggested edits.
Everyone has different ways of understanding the world around them, and in order to draw that out for a keen audience, it is necessary for an editor to make all those red lines and to work with the writer to help them dig out their own unique voice.
We all know the success of a book depends largely on its social media presence. There isn’t a debate. That’s how it is now. As society and cultures evolve and morph, so do the marketing methods. The younger generations raised in these new marketing methods learn them like they learn language. It’s second nature to craft a tweet, edit, post aesthetically-pleasing pictures, and know when they’re posting too much or too little. But older generations haven’t had the luxury of growing up in this world. It really is as difficult as learning a completely new language—and not everyone has the ability to take the time to learn it.
As an editor, a manuscript is given to you and you are told to make it better. How? That is, after you realize that the manuscript is someone else’s blood, sweat, and tears, and probably their biggest dream, how do I help them? Well, I recently asked someone and they said “pay attention to the author’s voice.” And while that sounds wise and appropriately vague, it got me thinking.
Maintaining the attitude of a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist when editing, particularly for fiction and memoir, is crucial to preserving an author’s voice.