Editorial – Shuffling Papers

Last week we bid adieu to Christina Frey, to whom we are grateful for three years of making sure The Voice was always letter-perfect.

She will be missed.

While It’s always hard to see a valued team member go, the reason Christina left is rather a point of pride for our publication: she was simply too much in demand for her editing skills.

This makes her the second consecutive editor we’ve lost to greater success in the publishing field. Current Voice writer Sandra Livingston left the editor’s position in 2010 to start what has become a very successful writing career (her fifth book will be published later this year). One thing is for certain: we know how to pick ’em!

The example set by our previous editors is very much in line with the purpose of the Voice: to provide a vehicle for AU students to speak their minds, become better writers, and, for many, to get their first experience with the publishing world. Our editors put a lot of time into helping writers improve their craft. This is objectionable to some: not everyone likes having their writing corrected. But it’s more valuable than many realize. In the larger publishing world, detailed writing advice is a rare commodity; most editors prefer to toss a less-than-perfect submission in the bin than take the time to provide notes for improvement or do a little back-and-forth with a new writer.

Of course, not everyone wants to spend a lot of time working on their writing; a good number of prospective Voice writers don’t respond after being asked to improve a few things. I think that’s a tragic loss. Written communication was on the wane for a long time as people became increasingly dependent on their phones, but with the surge in social media popularity the written word is making one hell of a comeback. Knowing how to write clearly, persuasively, ethically, and with style is a huge advantage in a world where even major newspapers are now regularly publishing barely-edited blog-style posts because good writers and editors are just so hard to find and people want information without delay.

I’ve been editing for more than 15 years, and I’ve worked with some incredible writers through AUSU, The Voice, and the Editors? Association of Canada. I’ve noticed a few things about the best writers and the worst, the ones who improve by leaps and bounds, and those who never seem to get better despite years of practice and education. The formula for excellence is simple: the very best writers are those who always question how good they are; the ones who never stop asking for advice, looking things up, and who gobble up editorial advice. The worst writers are invariably those who believe that learning to write is a finite process that they have mastered, and have no patience for corrections or suggestions for improvement.

Mastering the written word can benefit anyone in any career at any phase of their life. Effective writing, like a perfect smile, is often invisible: people don’t always notice it because there are no flaws to focus on. When you write clearly people only focus on what you have to say. This is clear communication, and it can take you anywhere you want to go.

The Voice is changing hands, but we’re still here to help AU students become the best writers they can be. Our new editor will be announced next week. Until then: farewell to Christina (who won’t be going too far –she’ll be adding a column to the Voice in the near future) and all our best wishes. Thank you!