This week, Oxford University Press announced it was listing Christopher Marlowe as coauthor of the three Shakespeare Henry VI plays. While the authorship of Shakespeare’s works has been subject to scrutiny for years, this is the first time Marlowe has been named a coauthor by a major publishing house. (Lesley is totally a Marlowe fan girl and is super excited about this.)
How did the research team come to this decision? They analyzed vocabulary and phrasing in the Henry VI plays and compared them to other works attributed to Shakespeare and Marlowe: “Much of the authorship analysis is quite technical because it involves analyzing every word of entire plays, looking for patterns and clues.” Thus, figuring out authorship is its own kind of puzzle.
Each author has his or her own voice when writing. The cadence, the word choice, and the overall style can be like fingerprints. While certainly influenced by what the author has read and what the author likes, the author’s voice still has a sound of its own.
As editors, we have to be very careful to improve the flow and grammar while also maintaining the author’s voice. Keeping in as many of the original words as possible is one good technique for this. Another is to really listen while you read so you internalize the author’s rhythm. Some writers prefer choppier text, while others have rambling sentences. Editors must know when to allow choppiness or rambling prose for the betterment of the manuscript and when to adjust it for the reader’s ease.
As ever, editors should always have a specific rule or a reason for an exception in their heads before making an edit. Each edit should have a clear purpose.
Do you have tips on keeping an author’s voice while editing? If so, share them with us!
I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are their best, creatively. They need to ask themselves, What does the ideal room look like? Is there music? Is there silence? Is there chaos outside or is there serenity outside? What do I need in order to release my imagination? —Toni Morrison
Writing is hard enough as it is. Why make it harder by trying to write in a location not suited to your needs? Of course every writer is different, but knowing your quirks and what inspires you will help you write your best work.
Friends, I know it is Friday, but I am sad. Today is the start of the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, and I am stuck in Indiana! For one weekend each year, giant white tents fill the tiny, historic town of Jonesborough. The streets become pedestrian paths lined with hay bales, mums, and pumpkins, and stories can be heard wafting through the crisp, fall air.
Oral storytelling is an Appalachian tradition, and from traditional Jack tales to personal stories of childhood mishaps, the National Storytelling Festival has it all. I certainly remember listening to the legendary Ray Hicks tell stories of Jack and his bumbling antics when I was a child, but I also heard African and Caribbean folktales from Len Cabral, what it was like to grow up in Georgia by Kathryn Windham, perfectly spun lies by Bil Lepp, and how to deal with nuns taking your tonsils by Donald Davis.
This cast of storytellers has helped me better hear the stories around me—both true and made up. Perhaps that is why I followed the path to writing creative nonfiction.
Regardless, I know each of the stories I’ve heard in Jonesborough over the years has opened my heart just a bit more.
If you ever find yourself in East Tennessee on the first full weekend in October, this festival is not to be missed.
Q.Can you use ’80s when referring to the 1880s? Thanks.
A.Yes. But if you want people to know what you’re talking about, and your context hasn’t already made it clear which century you’re in, then no.
Q. While copyediting several scientific research papers in different fields (mathematics, chemistry, physics, medicine, etc.), we encounter some uncountable nouns used in countable forms (with plural s and preceded by an or a). Some of these words may be used across the paper more than a hundred times, and correcting these may require rephrasing some parts. The authors of the papers complain that this is how they use these terms. Is it possible to use these uncountable nouns in the countable forms if this is how they are used in the scientific field? Also, should I question every single noun used in the research paper and check whether it is countable or uncountable?
A.Without examples, it’s difficult to know how to advise you, but normally it is the copyeditor’s job to render prose in standard English and query unfamiliar usages, especially if they dominate in a given text. (It’s the unglamorous side of editing!)
Today we’re starting a new series, Word Showdown, in which we will explore the correct usage of words that often get confused. Today’s topic: that vs. which.
This set of words confounds many people. In fact, it is an issue we correct in nearly every project we work on. While many folks have the impression that which is just a fancier version of that, the two words actually have very different purposes that affect a sentence’s meaning.