Monday, September 23, 2013

Good Editing = Good Writing

Kate, who is just so adorable.

Years ago, one of my favorite teachers told me, "Good writing can't happen without good editing."

He was doubly correct when it comes to writing knitting patterns.

You can have a lovely knit sample and gorgeous photography for a pattern, but nothing can make up for unclear, ambiguous writing or mathematical errors.

If there's anything I've learned from working as a journalist, it's that no one, no matter how talented, experienced or careful, can be trusted to truly edit his or her own writing. At the absolute minimum, I firmly believe that every pattern should be printed out and read by at least one person who is not the original author. If nothing else, they might catch a grammar or spelling error.

Why does a grammar or spelling error matter to a knitter? Consider the relationship between a photographer and her subject. Some people are so nervous about having their picture taken that the slightest hesitation or misstep on the photographer's part blows apart their confidence entirely. They bail. They cut and run, at least emotionally. They challenge and criticize. Good photography might happen under those conditions, but great photography will be almost impossible.

A spelling error in a knitting pattern, even in the preamble that a lot of people don't take seriously, shakes the knitter's confidence. They may have paid good money for this pattern that looks like a rough draft.

Worse, and hiding in a thicket of k1 and p2, is a Math Error. This is often enough to destroy the knitter's confidence in the pattern, the designer, and even his or her self as a knitter. It's horrible.

Fortunately for all of us, there are people who have trained in the art and science of avoiding both. They're called Technical Editors, but they really should be called Pattern Guardian Angels.

I was really lucky and landed a great one with Knitty, Kate Atherley. She was prompt, gentle and kind. It takes a special kind of person to point out that you made a big, honking mistake without making you feel like an idiot.

Even better, when my pattern used a technique that she hadn't used before, she picked up yarn and needles and TRIED IT. (And, whew, said it worked.) That, ladies and gentlemen, is super awesome.

So, raise your needles (or hook, or spindle, or shuttle) in salute to the humble technical editor, who doesn't even always get credit for his or her work. Without them, we would all be sending each other many less-than-happy messages on Ravelry.

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