IF AN OLD DOG CAN LEARN NEW TRICKS, WHAT ABOUT AN OLD EDITOR?
I have lived in Australia more than half my life, but my dinky-di Aussie offspring roll their eyes whenever I pronounce words the Pommie way, such as words ending in ‘ance’ with a long ‘a’ – darnce, Frarnce and so forth. I say yoghurt rather than yowghurt, and vitamins, not vytamins. Gumboots are wellies, and a raincoat is a mac. I have adopted some Aussie sayings, for example, ‘no worries’ – although I will never, ever say youse!
On arriving in this fair land and getting my first job at a large law firm in Sydney, I had to learn and use Australian English grammar and spelling on a daily basis. Over the last decade, since becoming a proofreader and editor, I have accepted gradual changes in grammar and spelling conventions, as well as changes brought about by technology. For instance, I managed to ‘let go’ of my passion for two spaces after a full stop (not without resistance!). I have learned to drop the Oxford comma when required and I have accepted (to my chagrin) that corporate jargon cannot be wiped off the face of the earth – after all, its presence is impactful and empowering, and helps my clients to leverage their core competencies to reach scalable outcomes, n’est ce pas?
Of course, as an editor, you never stop learning. It’s one of the many reasons I love my work. Every day; every job; every client teaches me something new. It might be a new editing skill or useful tip, a helpful software program, an excellent information source, or some fascinating insight into a topic, place or person I previously knew nothing about. And coming across a new word, of course, is always fun (unless it’s a weasel word – then yuk).
The skills of an editor are grounded in a solid and broad knowledge of our native language, outstanding grammar and spelling skills (I thank God for a great education), a natural aptitude for the written word, a sharp eye for detail and errors and, of course, years of training and experience. But today’s editors also need to be adaptable, open-minded, and not averse to change – whether you agree with it or not. Vocabulary, grammar and spelling is evolving as rapidly as the world around us. New words come into our language every day. Dictionaries can barely keep up. According to the OxfordWords December 2015 blog, approximately 1,000 words were added to the Oxford English Dictionary in the last quarter of 2015 alone.*
But while I have resisted australianising my Pommie pronunciation of certain words (despite pressure from my Aussie offspring), I continue to resist the trend of using US English in Australia. Recently, I have read books written by Australians, set in Australia, with Australian characters, but published in US English:
‘Fair dinkum, you’re lookin’ a bit gray; get some color in ya face, mate!’
Does that seem right to you? In my view, this homogenisation of our language is unnecessary, inappropriate and as long as I am an editor (even after I’m too old to be an editor), I will endeavour to use Australian English when and where it’s appropriate, and I will continue to encourage my Australian clients (and my Aussie offspring) to do the same. ‘Default US English’ doesn’t mean you have to use it!
How has your job changed over the years? Has it mainly been due to technology, cultural, or other changes? Have you resisted these changes, or embraced them?