Can a Computer Replace the Skills of an Editor?

At my last job, I was asked point-blank why in this day and age of advanced technology and general access to computers would any company need the services of an editor? I was, for lack of a better word, dumbfounded.

First, why would anyone ask a fellow employee to justify whether his or her position were truly necessary? Second, who could possibly think that a computer could do the job of an editor? Yes, computers can do some pretty wonderful things for writers and non-writers alike. They can spot basic grammar problems and even suggest corrections, find spelling errors, and on occasion spot places where a word may be missed. Not exactly foolproof. But they can’t rewrite poorly written copy, find garbled grammar, and fix word usage problems.

Case in point: The following sentence has a number of problems that your computer won’t identify but will make you look less than stellar. Would you rather rely on your laptop or the eagle eye of an editor?

Thomas ran form the back of the filed and caught the flier but he dropped it when he tipped.

Horrible sentence. I’m embarrassed to even use it as an example. Poorly written — spellchecker doesn’t care. Transposed letters — the words are correct (form, filed, flier, tripped) even though they don’t make sense in this sentence; spellchecker doesn’t care about that either. Missing comma — missed by spellchecker. These are the types of errors you will find in countless documents every day because we as a society have come to rely on spellchecker far too much.

So do you think companies need the services of editors, copyeditors, or proofreaders? I think the example above sufficiently answers that question.

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2 thoughts on “Can a Computer Replace the Skills of an Editor?

  1. Natalie says:

    Allyah, I think that you have hit the nail on the head! Frequently, our colleagues don’t realise the time or the skills that are required to create well written copy. To add to your description – computers are also incapable of ensuring that the copy sells the right message. I have just written a basic example of this – have a look if interested.

  2. Scotteus says:

    The person that asked you such a rude question should be punished. In a just world his entire life savings would be ripped off by his inept CEO two weeks before he decides to retire. Oh I forgot – that already happened. Sometimes the universe really gives it right back to you…

    Sucks to be you Ola – why did we need you when they did not even bother to replace your position after you left? Is a computer taking care of your old responsibilities? Sorry – just shaking off some old Yellow Springs bitterness. Oh look the sun is shining again…

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