Text Editing: A Handbook for Students and Practitioners

K Van de Poel, WAM Garstens and J Linnegar, University Press Antwerp, 2012, 640pp (pbk), £51.95, ISBN 978 9 057 18114 6

Reviewed by Nancy Boston

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This is a big and ambitious book, which aims to explain the role of a 'text editor' and the qualities required to become one; explores what the process of editing a piece of text involves; and attempts to help the aspiring text editor to achieve the desired result.

The book examines the ways in which a text can be assessed and how problems can be identified, in particular by using the CCC (correspondence, consistency and correctness) model. The way in which texts communicate meaning is explored within the framework of applied linguistics: categorised as normative linguistics (the conventions of grammar, spelling and punctuation) and text linguistics (cohesion, coherence and informativity), as well as document design and layout. Five facets (or lenses) through which a text can be viewed are listed, against which the CCC criteria can be measured. These are text type, content, structure, wording and presentation. The 15 evaluation points thus generated are examined in detail, followed by long discussions on the topics covered by normative linguistics, text linguistics and document design. The authors expand on the role of the text editor, the qualities required, the support and training systems available in different countries (the SfEP is mentioned here), and the changing role of the text editor in the wake of advances in publishing technology.

The rest of the book aims to put the theory into practice. However, the way in which the chapters are structured means that there is rather a lot of repetition. Although this is necessary, and even desirable, in a step-by-step textbook, it is less satisfactory if it is to be used as a reference work.

The final chapter is entitled 'Text editing in practice – a comparative analysis of texts', and potentially this is where we get to the heart of the matter, integrating the theory of the first part of the book with the practical advice given in the second part. Eleven experienced editors analysed six texts to highlight what sort of problems can occur and how they can be fixed. Disappointingly, the chapter does not deliver what it promises: it doesn't actually show what each editor did with each text; the examples of unedited, annotated and final text are given for only three extracts; and the chapter is very confusing and difficult to read because it keeps skipping from one extract to another.

In all, an ambitious project. The authors are to be commended for their valiant attempt to synthesise such a wide range of topics into one volume, and it is well worth dipping into, especially for the checklists.

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