As an editor it is part of your job to watch out for things like offensive language and discriminatory wording — but only when it is out of context.
Most of the time, the author does not intend harm or it may be a case of misinterpretation, but the editor must be objective and consider the ramifications of inappropriate use and bring it to the author’s attention.
There are many grey areas that make this difficult such as cultural differences, freedom of speech and inconsistent laws, but the key here is keeping it within context. Ultimately, it is the author’s decision if the wording is changed or not.
It’s important to maintain objectivity and independent judgement in thinking when working as an editor, copyeditor or proofreader.
This means being able to think for yourself and being able to discuss potential problems with your clients, and remain professional when doing so.
Objectivity means being impartial, intellectually honest and free of conflicts of interest. An editor must be able to put their personal views aside and approach their work on an individual basis. It may mean that you do NOT take on a particular job because you feel so strongly about the topic. Whatever the case, you must always stand back, keep a clear head, do not pass judgement on what you are reading and stay professional.
Confidentiality means that you must never disclose information about the editing project to a third person. Never discuss manuscripts, never share company details, never gossip about your clients. If you do, your client can take legal action against you.
Cultural Awareness means understanding that groups of people have patterns of behaviour and beliefs that may impact on the way they do, say and write things. Words and meanings can be totally different with the groups. What does not offend one group, may highly offend another group. The editor should arrange a client pre-brief (in person or by phone) before editing material to discuss what the author’s intentions are as this will often be beneficial to the editor.
Some Terms You Should Know
Defamation is ‘the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image’. Source Wikipedia.
Slander is the spoken form of ‘defamation’.
Libel is the written form of ‘defamation’.
Discrimination is the unfavourable or unfair treatment of a person based on their sex, age, religion, physical appearance, sexual orientation or race.
Blasphemy is ‘irreverence toward holy personages, religious artifacts, customs, and beliefs’. Source: Wikipedia.