We probably all like to think that our first stab at something is going to be perfect. We tend to resent “helpful” suggestions, at least at first. Oscar Wilde, when asked if he could make a few changes to a play he’d written, quipped “Who am I to tamper with a masterpiece?”. However, editing usually makes things better rather than worse. The challenge is convincing youngsters (and others!) that suggesting some edits is not a reflection on their abilities or knowledge.
In any case, edits can always be undone and the original restored, so nothing is lost except a bit of time (assuming you have taken sensible saving precautions, of course). What sort of edits might be suggested?
I think whether you’re editing text, sound, video or photos, the following three generic questions should be asked:
- Are there any errors? Spellcheckers don’t pick up all mistakes, so before submitting a piece of text as a final essay, project report or PowerPoint presentation, students should get someone else to check it. All professional authors and writers have someone else proofread their work.The concept of proofreading can be applied to all the other media too.
- Is there too much “noise”? Before making a sound recording it’s a good idea to record half a minute of the background noise so that you can try to filter it out later. On a video, the “noise” might consist of people making faces at the camera in the background. In text I regard as noise items that are completely irrelevant.
For example, a few years ago I read a review of a conference, and the first three paragraphs were taken up describing the journey to get there, which was fast and uneventful. That would be like a film review describing the journey to get to the cinema. The writer obviously got carried away and forgot why he was writing the review and for whom he was writing it.
So there’s a good tip to bear in mind: will your audience/readership think this is useful and relevant? If you think not, then it needs to go. Of course, if a student comes up with a brilliant turn of phrase that would a pity to lose, tell them to save it in a “snippets” file. This is, after all, ICT: nothing needs to be lost! Another example of noise where the way the thing looks is too prominent, eg with lots of fonts, colours and other formatting devices.
- Can the result be improved if some of the detail is cut out, even if all of the detail is relevant? In text, usually cutting out the detail makes things a bit tighter. Anyone interested in finding out more can always follow up the references provided (always provide references). PowerPoint slides are better with few details rather than more. Even from an artistic point of view, photos can often be improved through cropping, as I think the before and after pictures below illustrate.
Bottom line: editing almost always improves work – unless, of course, you really have produced a masterpiece!