Re: Oh, blow the lot of you!

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Posted by Joy on January 04, 2006 at 16:31:43 from user Joy.

In Reply to: Re: Oh, blow the lot of you! posted by Jon on January 04, 2006 at 14:36:56:

Sorry, chaps. I'm a non-fiction book editor, and I've been trying to stay out of this debate because it is something I do feel strongly about, tackle all the time in my daily life, and I am worried that I may become the heroine of some such novel as JOY GOES TOO FAR or JOY STICKS HER NECK OUT.

All editing, whether pre- or post-publication, is intended to communicate the author's message to his or her readership as clearly as possible. If that readership is limited in any way (the book is intended principally for children or is to be used as a textbook) and the language may be unfamiliar to part of its audience or outmoded in its use, then there is a very real case for glossing such words or terms or replacing them. Armada (now HarperCollins) did this silently and consistently in the 1960s with its reprints of Malcolm Saville, Elinor Brent-Dyer and Angela Brazil - and doubtless with other authors too. Armada did not point this out to its readership in any way other than by including the words "revised edition" on the copyright page. My 1930s and 1950s school editions of Chaucer, Byron's Don Juan and Spenser's Faerie Queen removed all the "filthy" bits to a handy appendix. More recent publications, such as those of Dorita Fairlie Bruce by Girls Gone By publishers, have made it clear that words such as n----- (the George Owdon censor won't let me use the actual word!) and cripple have been replaced in the text because they carry different meanings for the modern (especially the modern young) reader.

I do not see such amendments as a sort of dumbing down but rather as a way of carrying the stories through to a new generation, and ensuring that the message is not obscured by its language. Sorry to sound so heavy about all this.

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