Book review

The Editor's Companion

Janet Mackenzie, The Editor's Companion
Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 0 521 60569-5
291 pages, RRP: $39.95

A mentor on your bookshelf

Catchword, Issue 100, Summer 2004
Reviewed by Rani Milne

What I have learned about the business of editing is that most editors, with some theory and a lot of ambition, learn on the job. And most editors work alone. So where can an editor turn when things aren't running so smoothly? Who explains that there is an easier way to do some things, or that a verbal agreement is not the same as a contract? Well, fortunately for those of us who work alone, Janet Mackenzie puts down her wealth of experience in The Editor's Companion.

In addition to an overview of the role of the editor, this book addresses practical issues such as project appraisal, cash flow and pretty much everything else you need to know when taking on an editing project, in any medium. Apart from the possibility of paper cuts, owning this book is something like having an experienced editor sitting on your shelf, waiting to impart wisdom and answer your barrage of questions. (And the book doesn't tell you to come back later because it's running to a tight deadline.)

The Editor's Companion uses the Australian Standards for Editing Practice and the Australian Style Manual as guides, referring to the Manual for details of editing tasks and the Standards to put each task into the context of the greater editing process.

Speaking as someone who thinks the Standards are simultaneously incredibly valuable, and extremely difficult to read without her brain fogging over, this short, easy to read and witty companion is extremely valuable.

We all face the prospect of putting together a portfolio to submit for CASE accreditation and I am probably not the only one who has looked at the guidelines, and the Standards, and then blanked out and had a nice cuppa and read a magazine. It is daunting to puzzle out how I can best demonstrate my ability as an editor (where is all that documentation I know I must have kept, by the way?) to convince some very esteemed colleagues that I can do a job I have been doing for some time!

Well, Janet Mackenzie has helped to allay my fears. She has an extensive, reputable and practical history in the field, and everything she says combines theory and practice with an easy manner that is a source of reassurance for the lone freelancer.

Contact the Society: e-mail:
Post: Society of Editors (Tasmania), c/- Institute of Professional Editors, PO Box 8, Coopers Plains Qld 4108

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