Editor Interview #6 – Erin BrennerPosted: March 2, 2011
Having flirted with the freelance life since 2005, Erin finally divorced Corporate America in 2009 to raise her children single-handedly: Right Touch Editing, a four-year-old customizable editing service, and the newborn The Writing Resource, a blog offering quick lessons in writing.
- What is it about editing that drew you to it?
I love reading, and I love language and how it works. I was probably the only kid in my fifth grade class who liked diagramming sentences. I was probably also the only person in my master’s degree literature program who crossed over and took linguistic courses for fun. No matter what you’re writing—fiction or nonfiction, stories, white papers, textbooks, what have you—you’re telling a story. As an editor, I get to help the author tell his or her story and I get to dig into how language works to accomplish that goal.
- What character/personality trait, if any, do you believe is necessary to edit well?
To edit well, a person needs an attention to detail that borders on obsessive. You also have to be willing to remain behind the scenes. It’s the writer’s name on the work, not yours. If we copyeditors do our jobs well, we are invisible in the text. You have to be comfortable with that.
- What’s the most common mistake you find when you edit?
Misused commas. There are a lot of ways to use that little curl, and it’s no easy matter conquering them all. Sometimes the comma indicates where a pause would be in speech; you can spend your day taking it out and putting it back in without coming to a conclusion. Comma use can be an art, one to which I make no claim of superiority.
- What advice would you give aspiring editors or beginning writers?
Read, read, read. Read about writing or editing. Read the topics you want to write about or edit. Read high literature and trashy novels. The more you read, the more you tune your senses to good writing and the better writer or editor you’ll become. Language is always changing, so never stop reading.
- Would you share your favorite editing resources with us (books, web sites, conferences, etc.)?
It’s so hard to pick! I love resources and am always looking at new ones. My mainstays are Garner’s Modern American Usage, The American Heritage Dictionary, Oxford Dictionaries Online (a paid subscription gives you access to Garner’s online, as well), the Copyediting-L List, The Chicago Manual of Style, and Visual Thesaurus. Of course, at Copyediting.com (which I edit) we try to give visitors and subscribers a lot of resources as well, including a newsletter, online training, and a blog . And I can’t forget Twitter. There are so many wonderful writers, editors, and other language professionals on Twitter sharing their knowledge with everyone. It’s a tremendous resource, and I learn so much from the people I follow.
- Anything else you’d like to add regarding editing?
Editing isn’t a job, it’s a calling. The editor’s role isn’t often understood, and even when it is, the editor isn’t always appreciated. Writers often see us as wannabe writers or frustrated English teachers, bleeding all over their text. Some editors fit that description, but most of us see the beauty in the written word and understand how that feat is accomplished. We want to help our writers make their work the best it can be. Our names aren’t on the covers of the best-selling novels, and that’s OK. If your book is better for our efforts, then we’ve done our job. If you tell us so, then you’ve made our day.
Erin, thank you for doing this interview. I especially love your answer to number six. It is indeed a calling.