Editing lessons I have learned from tradies #11

Actually, I haven’t learnt from tradies for this blog but it is still part of the series I’ve been writing about common writing errors and how to fix them.

There is only one thing wrong with this device. It fits well in the hand. Its sleek design will help it slide smoothly into a pocket. The buttons are marked clearly on it. But there is one thing, one tiny thing, that makes it almost useless –

a worker in a factory somewhere assigned the wrong colours to the top two buttons.

Red is the universal symbol for ‘danger, beware, stop’; green means ‘go’. These colours permit you to use devices effectively even if you can’t understand the language written on them.

We are visual beings. That means that, even if you can read and remember that the green button on this device means stop, you won’t automatically push it when you need to. We have been conditioned to stop on red, go on green. Not to do so in some situations could be highly dangerous.

To mislead someone in your writing can be just as unproductive. You need to give clear signals to your reader about plot, structure, characters, dialogue and so on. The images you choose for your text also need to highlight it, not detract or mislead.

Editors are aware of such conventions. We not only check words but also images to see if they are appropriate, out of copyright, high (or low) enough resolution and pixels, and if they are the best fit for the text.

We also keep abreast of culturally appropriate customs and alert writers to more sensitive ways of writings so that readers from all backgrounds, nationalities, sexual persuasions, age groups and so on will engage with what you write.

It is sometimes hard to stand outside your own writing and read it impartially. Getting an editor to cast her or his eye over your words and images could save you much embarrassment.

So, red/stop what you’re writing and green/go get an editor!

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