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Department for General Assembly and Conference Management

Editing Section

The Editing Section ensures that United Nations documents are correct, clear, consistent and readable.  The editors work with authors to organize and refine their reports, sometimes at the early drafting stage.  They work on documents for many bodies of the Organization, including the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and their subsidiary bodies, as well as on submissions from other intergovernmental bodies and from Member States.  The range of subjects is vast, as befits the scope of the Organization’s concerns, ranging from climate change to statistics, from peace and security to the empowerment of women, from economic development to human rights.  The principal concern of a United Nations editor is to make sure that the text says exactly what it means to say, that it is comprehensible to the reader, and that it can be easily translated into other languages.  The intention of the author must be respected, and her or his style preserved, although the individual words and their order may have to be modified in the least obtrusive and most elegant manner possible for clarity of expression.

Editors must be alert to subtle nuances of meaning and attuned to political sensitivities.  Any editorial change, though seemingly innocuous, can have far-reaching consequences, and the editors must always be aware of that.  Frequent consultation takes place with author departments to ascertain exact meaning in order to avoid ambiguities and misstatements.  Editing in the United Nations does not take place in a vacuum; it is very much a back and forth process.  Liaison is always maintained, as well, with all other units involved in the documentation chain, in particular the translation services.  Not only must the document be clear and correct in its original language, it must be clear and correct in all translated versions.

The Section has an active outreach site on the Internet – the United Nations Editorial Manual Online, for the use of its clients within the Secretariat and at Permanent Missions of Member States, which is also available to interested users outside the Organization.  The Manual, which includes an online report-writing course, is interactive; the editors answer queries submitted through the portal on a daily basis.

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Last Update: 18 August 2015 / Mingxia Xu