Red ink

My chemistry teacher at secondary school encouraged us to experiment as much as possible and was a great storyteller. But Mr Radford had one major shortfall, and that was his penchant for red ink.

Every Friday, we’d hand in our dog-eared exercise books with our best efforts to write up whatever experiment we’d done. And every Monday morning, he’d sternly peer over his glasses and hand us back our feeble efforts. Usually, we had problems reading whatever we had written due to his copious comments all over our work. Fortunately, we did not see red. Unfortunately, we did not learn much from his scrawling either.

A friend once asked how I knew when to stop editing a text. Regrettably, there is no simple answer to that. Of course, the text must be fit for purpose and the editor’s suggestions constructive and helpful. However, just like Mr Radford, you can edit a text perfectly and still miss the point. My golden rule? Do whatever the text requires but ensure the author’s voice is heard.