KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Prejudice Against Editorial Professionals from India

I'm angry.

I'm more than tired of hearing U.S. editorial professionals put down editorial pros from other nations—I'm appalled. Currently, most of this broad-brush denigration is directed at editorial pros who live in India.

I understand feeling financially desperate because your best publishing clients have begun offshoring work to nations with poor economies, taking financial advantage of workers there to cut business expenses. But those workers are not at fault for taking on paying work. You want to get angry? Get angry at U.S. publishers and book packagers who engage in economic exploitation in other nations. And get angry at the publishers who are cheaping out here in the United States by refusing to pay decent rates.

But don't put down the skills of all editorial pros in India. Just as happens with any nation, including the United States, poor work, mediocre work, and excellent work come out of India. I have several editor colleagues in India who do excellent work, and I am editing the autobiography of an American author who emigrated from India years ago. These individuals' English is flawless. Also, numerous editors in India are board-certified as editors in the life sciences, as I am. Among approximately 900 certified life-science editors worldwide, 49 (more than 5%) are associated with the India-based editing company Editage and its related business unit, Cactus.

Those of you who put down Indian editors and proofreaders are simply exhibiting prejudice. That's ugly. Just stop it.


QuaCarol said...

Thank you! You speak my mind! I, too, have worked with colleagues in India and my experience is the same as yours.

The disrespect turns my stomach.

A Life "in silico" said...

Bravo Katharine for speaking out on this issue.

Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud said...

That was timely, Kathy. We should all remember that professionals should be treated as such until proven otherwise beyond a doubt, no matter where they're based. And it speaks volumes of their competence if writers and editors in India and other countries are continuing to pull in work, I'd say. Thank you for pointing out where blamers should place the blame instead.

Natalia Sylvester said...

My first job out of college was at a magazine that was a sister publication to a magazine in India (written in English). Though we didn't work on the same projects, we were occasionally in touch with the editorial team overseas. They were incredibly professional and talented, and it showed in the quality of their magazine. What's more is that we all learned from one another and came to admire each others' work ethics.

Thanks for bringing up this important topic!

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

My colleague S.K., who grew up in India and lives in New Jersey, is a medical writer who has a doctorate in biochemistry. He saw this blog post and e-mailed me. He gave me his permission to post his response here on his behalf:

"So many of the sentiments [that you expressed] rang true to me. I came to the U.S. in 1979 as a 24-year-old to pursue my PhD at the University of Houston (yes, our alma mater). I have lived in the U.S. since then, and I am an American citizen. I am multilingual (as most Indians are), but most Americans do not know that many Indians learn to speak and think in English before any Indian language, as I did. To boot, I studied French for 5 years in high school and college.

"Recently, I was particularly offended when a medical writer, with whom I corresponded, assumed from my name that I am a non-native speaker of English and that my writing would have to undergo extensive editing! I accept that I do write formally, and that is part of our learning British English, but non-native?! Come on. That dismissive attitude is nothing short of prejudicial. Having been on the receiving end of such bias, I laud your effort to tell Americans to stop this practice and accept that professional editors from India are top class."

Donald Samulack, PhD said...

I thank everyone for their comments. Cactus Communications and its business unit Editage (www.editage.com) has been in business since 2002; with a presence in the United States since 2008, and other offices in Japan, China, and South Korea, and joint ventures in Taiwan and Brazil. Globalization has created a huge demand for English-language editing services.

As everyone talks about, the world has become quite flat. I often say that it has become so flat that it is starting to curl. At Editage, in addition to our ISO 9001:2008-certified in-house editing processes, we manage a great deal of English-language editing demand from our Asian authors by leveraging a very large freelance editing pool in the United States. Hence, while editing work may be perceived as leaving the U.S., a great deal of work is actually comingbeing sent to the U.S. from Asian authors via Editage (the curl effect).

One of our editing professionals from India recently presented a poster at the Council of Science Editors meeting in Baltimore, MD (April 30 - May 3, 2011) showing that for editors within CACTUS/Editage in India there was no significant difference in the time it took to become a competent professioanl manuscript editor between editors for whom English was a first language and editors who learned another language first. It also did not matter whether the language spoken at home was principally English, or some other language. The take home message of the poster was that manuscript editing competencies within CACTUS/Editage were a function of very stringent hiring practices and a very high quality of in-house training processes. In fact, our first-time pass rate on the BELS exam has been above that of the North American experience.

The take-home message from the poster was that first language, nationality, and geography have no bearing on the quality of editing. It all comes down to personal competencies and training.

I'm proud to say that the poster won Best Poster at the 2011 CSE Meeting.

Readers of this blog who may wish to offer their editorial services to CACTUS/Editage may apply for a freelance position by going to the Editage website, or to www.cactusglobal.com. There are also positions open in India for westerners who may wish to spend some time in Mumbai as a contract editor. Seriously... six months to a year in Mumbai is a great life experience! CACTUS has recently been ranked in the top 25 by the Great Places to Work Institute, in India (rankings to be made public shortly in The Economic Times of India; the leading financial newspaper of India).

Join with CACTUS/Editage and help to start breaking down the prejudices against editorial professionals from India... they are not just Indian nationals!

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Thanks so much for your comment, Dr. Samulack. I fervently agree with your statement that "first language, nationality, and geography have no bearing on the quality of English-language editing competencies. It all comes down to personal competencies and training."

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