Susan Butler Keynote presentation

When to care and when not to care: The editor’s angst

Though retired as editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, Sue Butler continues to be invited to adjudicate on language issues from time to time. Upon retirement, Sue imagined that – finally – she would be able to ‘lash out’ with her personal opinions. However, she soon found that old habits die hard!

Experience counsels that caution should be exercised in editing: it is always possible that an individual’s use differs from that of the rest of the language community, and that the person is ‘out on a limb’ and completely unaware of it. Language does change, but it’s hard to know at what point change is completely acceptable. This is true of both new words and new usages.

Then there is the freedom of authorship – the free reign that needs to be accorded to the individual writer to do what they like, if that is what they really like.

In her keynote presentation, Sue will be exploring these and other challenges that typically induce anxiety in editors today. In judging others, should we make more rational decisions about what we are prepared to let float away on the current of language change – and what we will drag out of the water at all cost?