It’s all about the text

Fourteen years ago, I became ‘English Language Editor’ at a research institute here in Finland. After a decade of freelance teaching, I was mainly just pleased not to have to run around all day, to finally be part of a larger organization with a real work community, and to have a room of my own.

Little did I know I was beginning a whole new career.

Little did I know I’d found my calling and that editing was to be my dream job.

At first it was just a question of correcting what the researchers wrote. 

Fairly easy, I thought. 

But of course, it involved, and really did become, so much more. Over the years, this ‘correcting’ took on the form of an art, something I never could have imagined I’d still be getting so much enjoyment from over a decade later. 

The Finns generally write very good English. Ok, a lot of the editing I do does concern grammar; but often it’s more about nuances, making things ‘sound right’, making the tone of the text suitable for its purpose, getting sentences to flow, and ensuring things like end focus (my fixation on this, and my obsession with the over-use of the passive, I attribute to Carol Norris, academic writing guru at the University of  Helsinki!). 

Editing Finns’ English

The authors of the papers I edit are experts in their fields, they know their stuff, and I could never presume to interfere with the content of a paper. I know about English, about writing, about scientific writing. Science, not so much. But if through language, I can help researchers, or any non-native writers, minimize the effort their readers have to make to understand their message, then I am extremely happy to be part of their endeavour to spread their word and share their knowledge, and to get published. 

Me as an editor today

I no longer have that wonderful work community and am no longer part of a large organization. Two and a half years ago I set up on my own as Altexta, a decision that I truly feel I made at the right time, and I have never looked back. 

I’ve found a new community of people who do what I do; whose eyes don’t glaze over when I talk about grammar; who also get excited about whether, for instance, the -ize form isactually British English after all; and who share my passion about the importance of quality in texts written in English. 

For this I am grateful to NEaT(Nordic Editors and Translators), Kieliasiantuntijat, and MET(Mediterranean Editors and translators). I could not do all this and would not enjoy it so much without them!

Quality – why the fuss?

So, quality. My driving force. 

Yes, of course, I could probably do my job much more quickly, which would mean a cheaper invoice for the client.

But I pride myself in my work. I see each text is a masterpiece. 

To not deliver the best quality I can offer would be an affront to my profession.

So, what exactly does quality mean? How can you write good quality texts?

Something to think about next time.

-Alice

www.altexta-editing.com

Altexta offers editing services and translations from Finnish into English. I am a native English-speaker, brought up in Wales by a Finnish mother and Irish father. Thanks to mother’s determination, I’m fluent in Finnish. I have now lived in Finland for almost twenty-five years, and have been editing and translating for fourteen. My areas of specialization are work life, occupational health and occupational safety.  

In my blog, I hope to give non-native writers of English tips for writing good English, based on the problem areas I most often come across in my editing work.

Altexta tarjoaa kielentarkistus- ja käännöspalveluita. Olen syntyperäinen britti, kasvanut Walesissa, mutta viettänyt lapsuuden kesäni Suomessa, mummolassa. Äitini on suomalainen, isäni irlantilainen. Kiitos äidin sinnikkyydelle, olen kaksikielinen. Olen asunut Suomessa melkein 25 vuotta, ja työskennellyt kielentarkistajana/kääntäjänä 14 vuotta. Erikoisalaani kuuluvat työelämään liittyvät tekijät, työterveys ja työturvallisuus. 

Blogissani pyrin antamaan suomalaisille neuvoja hyvän englanninkielisten tekstien kirjoittamisessa, käyttäen esimerkkejä niistä ongelmakohdista, joita eniten kohtaan kielenhuoltotyössäni.