More complex Editing issues

The following questions do not have simple or “correct” answers. Experienced researchers will disagree among themselves about what is “best” in any given situation, and even a single researcher might apply different choices in different situations. It can be helpful to “think aloud” with others (e.g., classmates, faculty members) facing similar issues to share perspectives and questions.

Is it OK to move paragraphs around (that is, to move some text from one part of the story to another)?

Yes, carefully. If there are sentences or paragraphs provided later in the story that clarify or explain a point made earlier, you may want to move them. This happens sometimes when someone was telling a story, and then, during a pause, you asked them to explain something they said a few minutes before.

You can also rearrange text when the story would be confusing otherwise. Sometimes interviewees tell the story in a way that jumps around a lot and would require readers to work very hard to follow the action. Other times, they may remember some aspect of the story that they insert out of chronological order. In such cases, you may rearrange the order of sentences and paragraphs to make the story easier for the reader to follow.

What do I do about bad grammar?

Slight grammatical inaccuracies can remain in the text; these sometimes convey the speaker’s own voice. But larger problems of grammar will throw off potential readers. Try to honor the speaker, but honor your reader as well. What is grammatically understandable in spoken English differs from the more stringent grammatical requirements of written English.

What do I do about colloquial dialects or non-native speakers of English?

Again, help your reader while honoring your interviewee. Generally, transcribe words according to their standard form and spelling (e.g. going, not gonna,  or making, not makin’) and edit sentences grammatically so that they will make sense to your readers. On the other hand, colloquial or non-native-English phrasings – when easy for a reader to understand – help convey your interviewees voice and should be retained. Further, there may be times when you will want to render dialectical speech accurately (gonna, makin’). This is a matter of judgment. Ask yourself if there’s an important reason to do so (or not do so), consider what your interviewee would prefer (you might even discuss this with him/her directly), and take into account who the future readers of your profile are to be and the ways in which the profile is to be used.