Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-settings.php on line 516

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-settings.php on line 531

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-settings.php on line 538

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-settings.php on line 574

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-includes/cache.php on line 103

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-includes/query.php on line 61

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-includes/theme.php on line 1107

Warning: session_start() [function.session-start]: Cannot send session cookie - headers already sent by (output started at /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-settings.php:516) in /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-automatic-upgrade/wordpress-automatic-upgrade.php on line 119

Warning: session_start() [function.session-start]: Cannot send session cache limiter - headers already sent (output started at /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-settings.php:516) in /nfs/c02/h09/mnt/27817/domains/iii.bobulate.com/html/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-automatic-upgrade/wordpress-automatic-upgrade.php on line 119
Bobulate » As Transparent As Typography
posted on
September 6, 2007
by Liz Danzico

As Transparent As Typography

image

I’m not a writer. In fact, I take pride in the negative part of that sentence because what I am—what I love to be—is an editor. Editors and writers, while in the trenches with words together, really comprise two pretty different mindsets.

I’ve been editing for a while, but it wasn’t until I read Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style (thanks to Dan and Jason at An Event Apart) that I realized one of my most important jobs as editor: the editor, like fine-tuned typography, must be transparent.

Bringhurst quite insightfully sums it up with:

“… Typography must often draw attention to itself before it will be read. Yet in order to be read, it must relinquish the attention is has drawn. Typography with anything to say therefore aspires to a kind of statuesque transparency.”

Read that paragraph again and substitute the word “typography” with “editor,” and you have something that’s very true about the relationship between writers and editors:

“… An editor must often draw attention to himself before he will be heard. Yet in order to be heard, he must relinquish the attention he has drawn. An editor with anything to say therefore aspires to a kind of statuesque transparency.”

Making Sense

The writer is about ideas, inspiring readers with concepts, making connections among previously estranged topics, inventing things. Malcom Gladwell did it with “tipping point,” Jane Jacobs with “sidewalk culture,” and, as much as it is contested, Richard Saul Wurman with “information architect.”

Writers take messy ideas and make them accessible, so they can become part of our vernacular or way of dealing with the world. That accessibility, however, is often instigated, sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully, by an editor.

Making Form

The editor is about form. He is the writer’s guide, but he is also the readers’ advocate. He takes in the writer’s ideas and suggests a form that will make sense to readers. As a good editor, he knows his readers well, knows their threshold for flourishes and slang, knows whether they will tolerate compound-hyphenated adjectives, and when they will just give up. It’s the editor’s job to be that readers’ voice, then get out of the way to let the writer do her thing.

To guide writers, an editor must be in the background, but be in the background at the right tempo, volume, and pace. Much like a designer can and must give form to a body of writing, the editor can and must give form to the writing. And just like stunning type that so perfectly and invisibly complements a body of text, the more statuesque and transparent an editor can be, the better he can complement the writer.

Thanks Robert Bringhurst. Who knew?

2 Responses

Right on, it’s hard work being invisible but still attracting attention. Good article. Never thought of Bringhurst as inspiration for editors, glad you shed some light on a new angle for me. Thanks for that, Liz =)

As an editor, I couldn’t agree more with you. Thanks!

Leave a Response