In last week’s post, I shared part of an interview with a former colleague and friend (we’re calling her SH) who has worked in various roles and capacities in healthcare communications. I’m sure you’ll enjoy part 2 of the interview, where SH shares her insights about working with editors, horror stories of editing gone wrong, and what makes a “perfect” editor. Here is part 2 of the interview.

What has your experience been like working with editors and proof readers in the healthcare industry?
SH: To be honest, I haven’t always valued the importance of editors and proof readers. In one of my earlier roles, I worked in a small editorial department supporting a large project and creative team. I was very impressionable at the time and couldn’t help but notice that our department was treated as both a nuisance (constantly checking, correcting, proofing, and checking again… not to mention dealing with the French!) and a reassurance that when the deliverables went to press, everything was perfect. No matter what, it always seemed like a fight for the integrity of the product, but looking back, it is clear that everyone was just trying to get their job done well. Perhaps the different departments didn’t understand each other’s role in the process. Now that I am in a different role, I jump at the opportunity to work with professional editors and proofreaders as their contribution to the project allows me to focus other project elements with confidence.

I jump at the opportunity to work with professional editors and proofreaders as their contribution to the project allows me to focus other project elements with confidence.

Do you remember a time when good editing or the need for good editing stood out? For example, did you ever experience any $30k mistakes?
SH: As far as I know, my worst printed error was in an arrhythmia newsletter where I copied over a reference error spelling “infarction” as “infraction.” While this was reference 128 of 200 in mice type in a long list of citations, it still stings to this day. Spell check and my keen eye let me down and the piece went to print with my error. Ugh!

While I am still haunted by this memory, I was witness to a big-damn-deal error. One of my ex-colleagues once overlooked an error in a national bank’s 1-800 number that went to print and may or may not have actually been mounted on a billboard for all to see. At the end of the day it was a huge error with >30k budget implications and I felt horrible for her. Sadly, there was no proof reader and in the end, she lost her job.

In your opinion, describe a perfect editor/proof reader.
SH: I don’t think anyone is perfect. What is ideal is an editor/proof reader who understands the overall goals of the project and works well with the team. On occasion, a communication piece might require a style that is not preferred, is “quick and dirty,” or violates a pet peeve of the editor but, for whatever reason, the style is required throughout the piece. It is always easier to work with someone who recognizes the limitations of the edit than continually points out the obvious. An editor/proof reader who understands when we are delivering a stylish Toyota vs a fully loaded Lexus, and who is able to adjust his or her standards based on deliverables is as close to perfect as possible.

It is always easier to work with someone who recognizes the limitations of the edit than continually points out the obvious.

The message here is clear: editors and proof readers are a valued, though perhaps under-appreciated, commodity in healthcare communications. They go above and beyond what any word processing spellchecker can offer, and they ensure that nothing distracts from the message being conveyed. However, editors and proof readers need to learn when to let artistic style influence how the message is told and when to enforce language conventions. I, too, have been witness to a $30K editing mistake… but that’s for another day.

What has your experience been like editing/proof reading or working with editors and proofreaders in the healthcare world?