Graduation looms a few months in my future. Like a swarm of vultures circling a carcass, people shriek the daunting question from every direction: What are you going to do after you graduate? Fellow seniors know this question well, and many strive to prepare for it as I do. How does one respond to this? I could convey to people my dream of being an editor. I could tell them how I would love to work for a publishing company or how I think it would be neat to edit materials in a law enforcement context. While I would enjoy talking about these aspects of my potential future career, it’s additionally important to discuss why I want to be an editor.
My first exposure to editing quickly captivated my interest. At 13, I took a writing class with short, one-page papers due every Friday. Each Thursday night, I excitedly clicked the “print” button and watched as the letters of my writing appeared in shiny black ink across the previously blank paper and formatted (incorrectly at first) in MLA. Proud of my work, I brought it to class the first Friday a paper was due and prepared to turn it in. But we didn’t turn in our papers at first. Instead, my teacher asked us to switch papers with someone at our table. With my Ticonderoga pencil in hand, I had the power to tell my classmate exactly which errors he or she made in his or her writing. It was glorious. Through this, I knew I liked to fix writing to make it better. As I continued to mark up others’ papers, I made up my mind that I wanted to be an editor.
A few times I had doubts that editing was for me. I considered law school and police work, but those options weren’t quite right. When I took my first editing class at Cedarville, I understood so much more about how the editing process worked. This class confirmed that editing was the correct direction for me. At first, I didn’t think I had a deeper motive for seeking this career path; editing was just something I enjoyed doing. Through careful reflection, I recognized later in life why editing is so special to me. I love words, and I want people and writers to use them well. Editing enhances writing to its highest capability.
Words are everywhere. People treat them in different ways and this influences the words’ power. Last semester, I spent $368.80 on words professors required me to have. Some call them “textbooks.” I call them “expensive.” Sometimes the context affects this. In some cases, such as with textbooks, words are forced upon people. While these words can contain extensive knowledge, they may fail to impact readers if readers treat them as a chore or if they are poorly written.
On a similar note, the way people treat words causes them to lose meaning. This happens in a few ways. To start, this can happen when people overuse words. I never understood how if I said a word too many times, it stopped sounding the same or how after spelling a word for a while, it just didn’t look correct anymore. This same phenomenon occurs when people overuse words or phrases. One way I see this in secular culture is through swearing. People carelessly toss around crude and strong language so frequently that many fail to recognize what the words mean and what is truly being said.
In the same way, if people say “I’m sorry” too much, it can start to mean less and less because it turns into a thing to say instead of an apology. Overuse also occurs with positive words. A common example of this is “I love you.” These three words exhibit varying degrees of one person’s care for another, but when people use these words all of the time, they start to lose their power.
Words also lose meaning when people misuse and misunderstand their meaning. When people don’t know what words mean, they won’t use them properly. When this happens, words will emit false meanings. For instance, people sometimes use “literally” to add emphasis instead of how the word was intended. One can’t expect “literally” to mean what the dictionary defines it as, but rather as how the person using the word interprets it. On the other hand, many treat words in how they treasure them. Some people acknowledge the power of words and value them. This is beautiful. People may do this by being cautious with more powerful words instead of abusing them.
An editor works with an author to improve the content and meet the audiences’ needs. Because of my love for words, this opportunity excites me as I can try my best to maximize words to their highest potential. While I can’t prevent textbooks from being required, through editing, I can aim to strengthen writing in that form to effectively reach readers. As far as meaning, when I work with authors, I can ensure that words are not overused or misused. I can work to protect their meaning from being stripped away, and I can do my best to bring meaning back to words. Lastly, I can treasure words and make every effort to preserve their power. Words should never exist simply as letters on a page, but they should act as messengers sharing knowledge. As an editor, I can endeavor to help authors and audiences to love words and use them well.
About the author
Clara Meli lives just north of Detroit and is graduating from the Professional Writing and Information Design program in May of 2022 with a minor in Criminal Justice. She started composing stories when she was young and has had a passion for writing ever since. She also loves dogs, books, sandwiches, and deep-fried cheese.