Editing Tools: The Human Connection

“…But you have not taken into account the human factor…,” said Captain Chesley Sullenberger who was under investigation for allegedly ditching his aircraft carrying 155 souls into the Hudson River instead of landing at one of the two nearest airports after dual engine loss. In his view, this was the best option to save lives-incidentally, not one was lost. The prosecutors opined that going by simulations, he could have landed the aircraft on the ground, but, according to Captain Sullenberger, their accuracy could not be trusted. He believed such models were incapable of taking into account human factors such as the element of surprise and time required for analysis and decision-making.

The debate regarding who is more superior - man or machine - has been raging since a long time. Latest developments in software and applications of technology have only made it more relevant. Just as words once spoken cannot be taken back, developments in technology cannot be rolled back and are here to stay. How do we make peace with this?

Let us take the case of language correcting software and their application in the field of editing, and weigh both the sides.

Language is an art form, evolving as a whole. Words change meaning over time and writing adjusts on a constant basis. Skilled human editors can increase the quality of content. They analyze the content first ─ from your viewpoint and that of the user ─ and then move on to edits. While human editors are best for structure and plot development, content and style appropriateness, purpose, and overall aesthetic assessment, editing tools are better equipped for weeding out typographical errors, mechanical sentence reconstruction, sentence length check, removing repetitions, and spelling and grammar check.

The following points will help us better understand the value added by editors as well as editing tools:

  1. Sentence structure and procedure: Human editors can determine the connection between two seemingly vague concepts that were not thought of before, while editing tools can analyze content from face value (as of now).
  2. Reducing load: Editing tools hunt down split infinitives, highlight poorly constructed sentences and even handle incorrect comma usage. This helps take some of the work off the editor’s shoulders, affording him/her the chance to focus on weightier matters.
  3. Word usage: Editing tools can eliminate spelling errors. However, they cannot ascertain, for instance, if “manger” should be “manager” or if “pile” is incorrectly mentioned as “file.”
  4. Learning: Editing tools do not stop at alerting us to errors but can support every correction with plausible and accurate grammatical explanations that helps us hone our writing and editing skills.
  5. Meaning: A human editor can get a sense of your meaning more accurately and deeply than a tool. For example, both “its” and “it’s” are spelled correctly, but the version to be used depends on the overall context.
  6. Spot-on editing: An effective editing tool is designed to go through our work once and show us the many run-on sentences, poor word choices, and inconsistency issues, not to mention the times “there” was used instead of “their.”

Human editors carry considerable industry insight and understanding of client requirements. They are effective resources and must be an inherent part of any content development set-up. Their feedback not only raises the bar of content quality but also makes organizations more equipped to develop their brands. However, does this mean editing tools do not know their onions? Of course not. Consider this: editing tools help one progress from a good writer to an efficient writer. Probably if Shakespeare or Leo Tolstoy had such writing aids, they would have undoubtedly achieved much more in less time.

Therefore, the most important thing is to augment one with the help of the other, a trend picking up gradually. Editing tools are great at taking care of the technical aspects; by eliminating the distracting slip-ups often generated in manual editing, they help in producing an error-free document. Combine this with the value that human editors can add by way of insights, and the overall quality of your work will go high by several notches.