What is editing and who are editors? As far as my understanding goes editing is a process that tries to correct errors, find better ways of saying things and make the best copy of a writing, and editors are the humans who put in this whole process into action. Without these editing process a piece of writing would be simply incomplete and non presentable. Now then what are free editing tools? What are they exactly, can they do the work of the editors?Coming from a literature background, and being trained in that discipline for five years, there is one thing I realise that both writing and editing are very humane acts and they mostly lack grace when done through such automated systems. Editing is based on our understanding of language, the feeling of it, the context, the implied meanings within them. Can an app do it? For literal, simple, formal writings, online editing tools can surely be very handy. What about proper literature? Can that be edited with these tools? Wonder what this poem would look like if it was put into an editing tool by William Blake? If he had just gone ahead and thought he wouldn’t try to edit it himself and just check once if his grammar is correct with one of these editing tools.
Free editing apps are platforms and sites which are pre-fed with data about language and grammar and helps you edit your work according to their pre-stored understanding of it.
(Image sourced from Wikipedia)
The Sick Rose
BY WILLIAM BLAKE
O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
Artistic freedom is lost in the hardcore scripted grammar of these tools. William Blake has treated the Rose as a human in this poem, would an electronic tool understand that? No, and this is exactly where the human editing skills are required to keep the feeling of literature alive in this technologically advanced world. The small drawings around the poem, the words of that small poem, are important just the way they are. Change their order according to orthodox grammar and editing tools and it will become a bland piece of writing. THE SICK ROSE would become the sick rose and not what it implies.
The app writes, “Your sentence appears to be a question, but does not end with a question mark. Consider replacing the punctuation.” Little had the poet intended for such a thing to happen but if he had left it in the hands of these apps his feelings might have been questioned and changed in the process.
The electronic grammar tools go wrong because they are auto fed with certain preconceived ideas of grammar. Where will the exceptions go in this case? This does not mean I am implying that these apps are not useful or bad. Saying that would be hypocrisy because these apps have helped us on multiple occasions to correct our works. We make a lot of grammatical error in our daily language use, that is reflected in our writing too, that is when the editing tools are helpful. They help us point out these minor overlooked mistakes and hand us a better copy of the writing.
These tools have helped many people to even learn about the language and also brush up their language skills and have saved them the cost of paying professional editors. They surely are a way forward when it comes to technology, but for someone who is actually into literature and writing, it is more of a step backwards because with these advancements the organic aspect of literature keeps fading away. Editing is a well-acclaimed and respected profession and if someday we all start having complete faith in the free editing tools then maybe these crores of editors will be out of jobs. All we will have after that are grammatically perfect and flavourless books and write-ups. The human editors of flesh and blood bring in the flavour, the hint of palpable emotions in these writings to help it appeal to the mass. The day that is lost, we lose literature, and it all becomes a formal amalgamation of words.
There should be strict boundaries to these editing tools for sure. We should use it in formal writings, brushing up our own language skills and things, but we cannot surely use them to such an extent that the whole editing industry goes missing from the face of the earth. Many a time one has to make a judgement call and work up their brains and not completely bow down to the editing tools. You know what you felt when you wrote something, your machine cares least for it. Then why take its word as the ultimate? Keep an open mind and take its suggestions into account, but never lose your feelings in the process. Then what is left of your writing if you forget what you felt and take the word of your apps for it as the ultimate?
Image sourced from Google
To build on my research I spoke to a few people who are in the editing sector. Sanchari Chatterjee, the Chief Copyeditor at India Today tells me, “I am surprised to learn these kinds of tools exist. Mechanical work can produce a lot of things but words are not one of them. Editing needs understanding, feeling, thought, basic algorithms and apps cannot possibly compensate for that.” This is a similar concern voiced by many people from the sector, because what is an edited piece without the human editor? If machines had feelings to express and comprehend then we would have all been out of jobs by now. If we are ready to compromise with these tools to find an easy way out, then that causes us a lot of problems, makes a lot of people lose their jobs and make their skills and education useless.