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Alana Woods on editing: roles have blurred

Posted by Alana Woods on May 1, 2012 at 8:00 PM

This is week seven in my series What editors do.

This week is about the roles of editors, designers, artists, illustrators, typesetters and photographers.

In the days before computers when we worked on hard copy, when pasting up literally meant pasting copy and illustrations to paper—I know it’s difficult for some of you to remember back that far, you probably weren’t even a twinkle in your father’s eye—editors, designers, artists, illustrators and typesetters had clearly defined roles.

Editors edited then marked up final copy for typesetting, designers chose the look of the publication—by that I mean the layout, colour scheme etc.—typesetters followed the marked-up copy instructions to render text into its final form, and artists, illustrators and photographers provided artwork for covers and any internal illustrations.

Designers, artists and illustrators tended to work for graphic design firms that contracted out their services. Typesetters were generally employed by printers because it was the printer who rendered the pasted-up copy into final artwork. Photographers, in my experience, generally worked for themselves and were hired when needed.

Since computerisation the roles have blurred. There are no hard and fast rules about who does what.

An author can now do everything up to the printing stage and often does, especially indie authors. And as we all know, results can vary.

In the government and corporate context two people only are usually involved after the author hands a job on: the editor and the graphic designer, often working together. The editor edits the text but can also be expected to format (apply styles) a document ready for the designer.

The designer typesets, designs the look and depending on their artistic skills either produces or incorporates illustrations. They also design and produce the cover and produce final artwork which is provided to the printer.

That’s not to say everyone else has gone the way of the dodo.

Graphic designer is now a catch-all term for designers, artists, illustrators and typesetters. Graphic designers now perform all of those roles. And photographers will always be needed.

Next week the spellchecker.


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Categories: Tips on editing

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2 Comments

Reply Alana Woods
4:31 AM on May 3, 2012 
Caleb, I know what you mean. Some books have driven me almost mental trying to figure out what the author is actually saying because of wildly misplaced commas. I've read some that look like the author has just shaken a pot of commas over the page and let them rest where they fell.

My advice to authors, if they ask for it, is to tell them to read their work out loud and actually give the appropriate pause to punctuation and see if it makes sense. I tell them that if it makes sense then don't agonise about whether it's 'correct' by the rule book. No doubt I'm going to get told off for that by someone but it works pretty well.
Reply Caleb Pirtle
7:31 AM on May 2, 2012 
I read book after book, and the editing, especially punctuation, is different in all of them. I'm not for sure there are any editing rules anymore.