The Editor’s Companion

J Mackenzie, Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 268pp, 2011, £35.99 (pbk), ISBN 978 1 1074 0218 8

Reviewed by Anne Waddingham

Buy this book

The book is based on, and expands upon, the Australian Standards for Editing Practice, published in 2001 and under revision when this book was written. Its chapters therefore follow the standards in that they are organised according to the same divisions: the publishing process, conventions and industry practice; management and liaison; substance and structure; language and illustrations; and completeness and consistency. The book ends with chapters on editing methods and techniques and working as a freelance. There is a bibliography, glossary and index, and an appendix of markup symbols, which interestingly differ considerably from the 2005 BSI proof correction marks, in that they are more akin to the 1976 version.

It is therefore a thorough review of the production process and the editor's role in it, considering both traditional and digital publishing. The publishing scene in New Zealand is also included.

There are some informative sections on on-screen structure and single-source publishing, ie an XML-coded document that can be published in different print or e-format versions.

The chapter on language leans heavily on the Australian Style Manual, and although differences in UK and US usage are sometimes highlighted, I would not follow them for style unless I were editing an Australian text. Even then, the chapter is only an overview.

The writing style is lively and informal, and the author is not averse to slang: 'Authors have been known to spit the dummy and reject all editorial suggestions', and my favourite, 'Chapter lengths should be more or less equal, or at least within cooee of each other'. It's noticeable that Ms Mackenzie eschews scare quotes; indeed, she admonishes authors who use them to sneer at colloquialisms but, as she points out, context is everything. Similarly, illustrations are often referred to as pix (and why not? It's the word we all use). I found it refreshingly unstuffy.

Despite the distinctly Antipodean flavour (eg gaps between editing jobs are discussed in terms of southern hemisphere seasons), there is much of interest to British editors. It's a useful companion to the classics (Butcher's Copy-editing, New Hart's Rules, etc), especially if you are working with clients down under, but if I had to choose between them, I'd go for Butcher's.

Reviews of other editorial guides All book reviews