Editor Interview #6 – Erin Brenner

Erin Brenner

Erin Brenner

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


Editor Interview #5 – John E. McIntyre

John E. McIntyre

John E. McIntyre

John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.

  1. What is it about editing that drew you to it?
    I was a failed eighteenth-century man, having (wisely) abandoned a dissertation on Rochester and Swift, and I needed to make a living. Six summers in high school and college working on a weekly paper in Fleming County, Kentucky, had given me experience in journalism, and I presented myself to The Cincinnati Enquirer, which took a chance on placing me on the copy desk and got me started on a thirty-year-plus career in newspapering. I immediately took to the camaraderie—copy editors tend to be smart people with mordant senses of humor. I liked the structure, being constitutionally better suited to meeting other people’s deadlines than my own. I liked taking up an article and making it cleaner, tighter, clearer.
  2. What character/personality trait, if any, do you believe is necessary to edit well?
    Mild obsessive-compulsive disorder is always a help. Obsessive-compulsive because you have to care about all the details, have to itch to make things right. Mild because if you let it get severe, you’ll never be able to finish anything. Sitzlust is also useful. I’d much rather be in a chair at a desk for eight or ten hours than running about trying to extract sentences from people who are inarticulate, hostile, or both. And, if you can keep it under wraps, the warm glow of superiority at identifying other people’s mistakes will sustain you.
  3. What’s the most common mistake you find when you edit?
    The annoying little things never go away: the erroneous plurals and possessives, the misplaced modifiers, the confusion of homonyms. You’d think that people would learn such simple stuff, but they don’t, and mainly they don’t seem to care much about them.

    But the really egregious lapses are less in the micro than in the macro. The failure to GET TO THE POINT—I’m mortal, and I can feel the minutes slipping past me while the writer indulges in prolonged throat-clearing before tortuously arriving at some identifiable purpose for writing.

  4. What advice would you give aspiring editors or beginning writers?
    Read a lot, and read good stuff. You can’t be an effective editor without knowing what the ablest writers are doing and seeing where the language is headed when wielded by adepts. (Read some trash too; you need to be connected with the culture.) Keep replenishing your store of general knowledge, and bear down hard on the subjects that most interest you.
    Find some reliable websites, [cough] modesty forbids [cough], that you can trust, and follow the author to the ones he or she likes. Language Log is good for eavesdropping on the linguists.
    Joining the American Copy Editors Society is a good idea. Go to the conferences, introduce yourself to people, attend the workshops, and never neglect to spend time at the bar listening to the stories.
    And write and edit as much as you can. Blog if you must. You will find that your writing and editing will reinforce each other. Look into freelance work if you can’t get anything permanent; the pay will be dreadful, and so will the prose, but you’ll get useful experience. (You didn’t go into this for glamour, you know.)
  5. Would you share your favorite editing resources with us (books, web sites, conferences, etc.)?
    Since I am an obvious antique, it should not surprise that I still reach first for a book: a dictionary (I like American Heritage and the New Oxford American particularly and would subscribe to the OED if I could afford it), Garner’s Modern American Usage and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, the Chicago Manual, dozens of other books on language and usage.
    I’ve been meaning to put together a list of electronic references for my students but haven’t got around to it; and I’m between editions now, so you won’t have it here. Start with Katharine O’Moore-Klopf’s Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base, and go from there.
    I mentioned the American Copy Editors Society above. You work solitarily, gazing at texts. No one but writers understands just what you do, and they resent it half the time. Then you go to an ACES conference, and you’re in a room with three hundred people who are just like you: mildly obsessive-compulsive, drunk on language, and possessed of mordant senses of humor. You are no longer alone. You have people. It is too precious an experience for you to pass up lightly.
  6. Anything else you’d like to add regarding editing?
    I tell my undergraduate students that editing is just about the most fun you can have legally.

    Poor fools, they never believe me.

John, thanks for sharing your editing viewpoints with us. You are right; reading your advice was just about the most fun I’ve had legally in months. 😉

Editor Interview #4 – Camille Gooderham Campbell

Camille Gooderham Campbell

Camille Gooderham Campbell

Camille is the Managing Editor of Every Day Fiction, a magazine that specializes in bringing you fine fiction in bite-sized doses.

Every day, EDF publishes a new flash fiction story that can be read during your lunch hour, on transit, or even over breakfast.

You can read the daily story online or subscribe by email or RSS feed.

  1. What is it about editing that drew you to it?
    I actually got into editing quite by accident – it started with enjoying the critiquing and helping others in my writing group more than I was enjoying working on my own projects, which led to my getting involved with Every Day Fiction and loving the work more and more. That eventually led to the realization that I’d rather spend my days doing that type of work and let my own fiction writing be a pleasure rather than a business.

    The biggest joys for me are being part of a new writer’s first publication experience, discovering emerging writers who I think will go on to successful careers, and making small suggestions that help turn a good story into a great story.
  2. What character/personality trait, if any, do you believe is necessary to edit well?
    I don’t necessarily think that you need to have any particular character or personality traits to edit well. If you’re willing to concentrate fully on the work you’re editing, and you have a fundamental respect for both the author of the piece and the end readers it’s intended for, everything else should fall into place.

    To be happy as an editor, on the other hand, you need to be patient and tolerant and tenacious, have a love of words and language, and possess at least some nitpicky perfectionist tendencies.
  3. What’s the most common mistake you find when you edit?
    Probably sloppiness, on every level, from the nitty-gritty sloppiness of typos and misused words to the fundamental sloppiness of plot threads left hanging and tacked-on resolutions, not to mention author sloppiness outside the story – lack of attention to guidelines, submission forms not properly filled in, queries and correspondence full of typos and lacking pertinent information.
  4. What advice would you give aspiring editors or beginning writers?
    Read. Read all kinds of things, old and new; try different genres and styles, push your reading boundaries. Reading will teach you more about language and style than any class or expert advice could.

    Volunteer as a slush reader. The slush piles of the world are full of lessons to be learned, for both writers and editors.

    Don’t fall too much into fashions and fads in writing; listen to the advice that’s out there and apply it sensibly, but beware of absolutes – if everyone cut out every modifier, showed everything and told nothing, banned the passive voice altogether and eliminated all dialogue tags except “said”, we’d lose a lot of unique voices into a nicely crafted sameness.

    Finally, everything in this business takes longer than you think it will (from writing and polishing a novel to developing a career as a freelance editor to starting up a magazine or publishing house), so give yourself time.
  5. Would you share your favorite editing resources with us (books, web sites, conferences, etc.)?
    Google is my go-to tool for everything from fact-checking to researching alternate grammatical usage and regional expressions to scouting for prior publication and/or plagiarism. I use Google a lot.

    I don’t tend to actively reference books on writing or editing very often, but I like Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing.

    Also, as part of the Every Day Publishing family of magazines, we have Flash Fiction Chronicles, which I read regularly (and to which I occasionally contribute as well). Although it’s intended for writers and is about the craft of writing, I always find the variety of perspectives and opinions enlightening for me as an editor.

    I follow several blogs of writers and editors I admire, and I have learned a lot from those too.

    But really the best resource for any writer or editor is just to read all the time, in one’s field and outside of it, as much as possible.
  6. Anything else you’d like to add regarding editing?
    Only that there are many kinds of editing jobs and not every editor (or aspiring editor) is suited to all of them.

    Once upon a time, I used to believe that “real editors” worked in-house for large publishers, and that if you didn’t live in London or New York you were out of luck, but that’s just one small facet of what’s possible. Someone who is completely happy working as an in-house fiction editor for a large publisher may not be at all content freelancing or heading a start-up magazine, or vice versa. Someone who enjoys more substantive editing may find copyediting or line editing tedious, where a different person might have trouble leaving the nitpicks aside for the next round.

    Anyone considering an editing career should not be misled into thinking that there is only one kind of editing job; there are so many different things that you can do with editing skills.

Camille, that was a great peek into the mind of an editor. Thank you for your time. I love reading these interviews.

Editor Interview #3 – Sherry Noik

Sherry Noik

Sherry Noik

Sherry Noik published her first article in 1994 and continued to write as a sideline while engaged in another career.

She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years, first as a freelancer and now full-time at a Canadian media chain based in Toronto.

Sherry tweets here and blogs at SherryGrammarian.

  1. What is it about editing that drew you to it?
    You know how in the movie “A Beautiful Mind” John Nash (Russell Crowe) looks at pages of text, and pieces of it seem to glow and pulsate? I’m like that with a misplaced comma. It just jumps out at me, whether I’m looking for it or not. Is there such a thing as being a grammar savant?

    We all start reading when we’re kids. For some, it sparks an interest in engineering; others discover that banana farming is their destiny. For me, it instilled a profound love of language, of how words are used, of how they can be arranged in so many ways to tell a story, impart an idea, evoke an emotion, paint a mental picture, inspire action. Isn’t it amazing how we all have the same words but put them together differently?
  2. What character/personality trait, if any, do you believe is necessary to edit well?
    Call us persnickety if you like, but I think it’s a myth that editors are all just grammar Nazis. Editing is all about making sure the intent of the writer is communicated clearly. If readers have to pause repeatedly or re-read passages, the effect is lost. That involves more than just excising a misplaced comma. What some call persnickety I would call attention to detail.

    We apply that attention to detail in order to take what the writer is trying to say and help them say it, making sure there’s consistency, flow, accuracy, structure, readability. That can involve fixing sentence structures, re-organizing sentences and paragraphs, removing unnecessary text or asking for necessary additions, questioning facts or assertions – and, yes, even correcting punctuation. It helps to have a little mind-reading ability, as Katharine O’Moore-Klopf pointed out in a previous interview. The best editors improve a writer’s prose without changing the writer’s voice and without injecting ourselves into it.

    Also, it’s important to know what you DON’T know – i.e. don’t assume you remember the spelling or grammar rule and don’t hesitate to look it up. (Personally, I can never remember if “misspell” has one S or two. Ironic, no?)

    I’ll tell you this: rigidity is NOT a positive quality for an editor. There actually isn’t one right way to write well, and good editors recognize this. There are rules, and then there are artful, effective ways to bend the rules. An apt analogy for this is music: look at any great guitar player to see brilliant examples of rule-bending in action (and remember that they spent years learning the rules first).

    Add to all that the aforementioned love of language and desire to make every piece of text sound its best. You have to CARE.

  3. What’s the most common mistake you find when you edit?
    I should point out that I’m not an expert on fiction. My specialty is non-fiction, whether in print or online: articles (mainly), blog posts, marketing copy, any non-fiction prose or document.

    One common issue is that many writers mistake formal writing for good writing. Formality has its place, but in many forms of contemporary writing it comes off sounding stiff and dry, like a high school essay.

    Another is that a lot of writers fall back on clichés – or empty generalizations, which are just as objectionable. I consider that lazy writing.

  4. What advice would you give aspiring editors or beginning writers?
    For both writers and editors I would say learn everything you can related to the craft. Read a lot – and absorb what you’re reading. Note the variety of styles, what works, what doesn’t. Build your vocabulary. Get familiar with the rules of usage and grammar. Writing and editing both involve certain mental muscles that need to be exercised.

    I would add this: please don’t work for free. This is a personal peeve of mine. No one expects a plumber to fix their leaky sink for free. It’s a myth that working for free leads to paid work. It typically doesn’t. It leads to the expectation that you will continue to work for free. It devalues your time and skill and education – and every other writer’s and editor’s, too. It tells the world this is easy and anyone can do it, which is not the case. That’s not to say you can’t do a favour for a friend or contribute a guest blog post (both of which I’ve happily done) as a labour of love, but if someone is hiring you, that’s a job. If you don’t get paid, that’s called volunteering.
  5. Would you share your favorite editing resources with us (books, web sites, conferences, etc.)?
    I use a variety of resources depending on the task, and whether it’s Canadian or American. Reference books of all kinds are crucial – dictionaries, style guides, a thesaurus. Many publications and media outlets, including my own, have internal style guides, as well. Then, of course, there’s Google – the editor’s BFF. I’m constantly on the Internet to verify, say, the spelling of someone’s name or some other fact (substantiated by multiple sources, of course).

    I also like to read some of the “classics” on language and writing: Strunk and White, William Safire, Stephen King’s On Writing. One of the best books I’ve found on this subject is Constance Hale’s Sin and Syntax. She really breaks it all down in an accessible and engaging way, and her aim is not to wag her finger at your errors but, rather, to demonstrate real ways to polish your prose.

    My favourite websites are Paul Brians’ Common Errors in English Usage and Twitter, where I chat endlessly with other word nerds about things like semicolons.

  6. Anything else you’d like to add regarding editing?
    The fact we all now have the tools to self-publish seems to suggest that editors are no longer relevant. But it’s my opinion that the more content is put out there, the MORE we’re needed.

    Also, I hope this didn’t come off all pompous-y.

Sherry, thanks for doing this. I love your insights, and you can be all pompous-y here (even though you weren’t). 😉

Editor Interview #2: A. Victoria Mixon

A. Victoria Mixon

A. Victoria Mixon, is a professional writer and independent editor with over thirty years’ experience in both fiction and nonfiction.

She is the coauthor of Children and the Internet: A Zen Guide for Parents and Educators and author of The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual. She can be reached through her blog, her Editing Services, and Twitter.

  1. What is it about editing that drew you to it?
    I got into editing as a teenager—I was the editor of my school newspaper for three years in the 1970s, and being from a highly-literate family I took the dictum of editing quite seriously. Now I’ve got the Red Pencil in my blood.

    I love this work. I just do. I’ve been revising and reworking my own manuscripts for thirty years, and being able to apply those skills that cost me such blood to learn to the manuscripts of other writers—being able to see them snap into focus so easily, without all those months and years of agony—is just a godsend. I could do this forever. I love the writers. I love the hope and innocence and creativity and charm of them. My clients are wonderful people to know.

  2. What character/personality trait, if any, do you believe is necessary to edit well?
    Profound love of the craft. Undying respect for the infinity of the written word, and indefensible hope in its potential. You know you’re never going to be as good as you can possibly be. Communicating telepathically through the written word is an impossible task. But you can try.

    You need to understand the complexity of what you’re tackling. Editing involves not only copy editing—correcting for grammar and punctuation—but also developmental editing—proper structure—and, finally, that most delicate and difficult of all crafts to teach, line editing for beautiful prose. It took me six months to teach myself proper developmental editing, and copy editing can be learned in a week out of the right books, with the right attitude. But line editing is closer to an art. It takes years and years of dedicated study and practice.

    Also, you need a really good sense of humor grounded in deep compassion. Nobody’s born knowing how to either write or edit, and they are different skills and must be learned both separately and in conjunction. But a great sense of humor and great kindness for the human animal are essential prerequisites to any type of fulfilling life—I just happen to find writing and editing to be the most fulfilling of all lifestyles.

  3. What’s the most common mistake you find when you edit?
    Underestimation of just how much time and labor goes into writing a book. The world is awash in new aspiring writers these days—truly, almost floating away on it—and they are all relentlessly encouraged by the marketing aspect of the publishing industry to believe they, too, can win the Great Fiction Lottery of Fame and Fortune. It’s completely stupid. But it’s what we have.

    So these innocents come to me in all good faith with manuscripts on which they have poured their blood, sweat, and tears for, really, not nearly long enough, sincerely hoping they are ready for the bigtime. I’m as compassionate as I can be about breaking the news, but they are discouraged and sometimes quite crushed to learn just how much goes into writing a good book. The marketers didn’t say it was going to be this hard!

    All I can do is keep teaching them, kindly and patiently, step-by-step, what they need to learn in order to succeed at this craft. Yes, it takes a very long time. Yes, as Flannery O’Connor said, “It will make your hair turn grey and your teeth fall out.” Jean Rhys was a recluse in her sixties when her jewel-like early novels were rediscovered, leading to her gorgeous final novel, Wide Sargasso Sea.
    You have to take the time.
  4. What advice would you give aspiring editors or beginning writers?
    Aspiring editors? Editing is a very specific skill set, related to writing but not limited to it. It involves enormous amounts of study of the craft of fiction—in-depth analysis of dozens of the greats, developmental and line issues as well as the history of copy issues in the language in which you work—as well as some grounding in psychology and therapeutic techniques. Critiquers are not editors. Even wonderful writers are not necessarily editors. If you want to edit, learn what a really good editor does so you can model yourself on them. Apprentice yourself to someone you trust until they say you’re ready. Sham editors, like unqualified self-publishers, give the entire industry a bad name. Don’t be one of them.

    Beginning writers? Focus on the craft. Block out the marketing hype about getting yourself published. It’s not going to happen like a gamble, the way they say it will, and your failure to make that occur will heap burdens upon your shoulders that will eventually poison your love of writing in general. Tune them out.

    Focus on the task of getting your world down in clean, clear words. Do it because you love it. Make friends with other writers whose work you love. This is your life.

  5. Would you share your favorite editing resources with us (books, web sites, conferences, etc.)?
    Well, of course, I have my new book, The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual. That’s the basics of what aspiring writers need to know about becoming writers. I’m working on the sequel, which goes much more in-depth, and workbooks to go with them.  I have an online magazine full of the material for the sequel. I also maintain my blog so aspiring writers who can’t afford either an editor or any of the rest of it can still get good guidance, and I maintain my advice column so you can ask questions and get freebie answers.Personally, I’ve been reading Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners for twenty years, and I still find solace in it. Everyone cites John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist, which is a long-standing classic. But my biggest resource is the great writers. Don’t waste your time reading too much modern stuff that’s been shoved through the publication mill as fast as humanly possible. Study the classics: Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Graham Greene, Camus, Isak Denison, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, James Thurber, Paul Bowles, Jane Bowles, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Chandler, John Gardner. I just finished reading Anthony Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds. I read tons of vintage mystery, analyzing plot structure and scene. Find clean, clear, high-tension craft and read it. Learn why it works.

  6. Anything else you’d like to add regarding editing?
    This is the best time in my entire life to be an independent editor. I am honored to be a part of the history of publishing at this juncture. If I’d tried to do this twenty years ago, I’d have had to move to New York City and spend my day in an office. I don’t want to live in New York City. And I’ve done my time in offices. Now I get to sit by my kitchen fire applying my decades of skills to beautiful, riveting, exciting manuscripts—becoming friends with wonderful writers from all walks of life and all levels of experience. This is my dream job. And I get to work it.How lucky am I?

Thank you, Victoria, for taking the time to do our second editor interview. I know I learned a thing or two, and I’m sure our readers did too. Tell me I’m right in the comments folks.

Editor Interview #1: Katharine O'Moore-Klopf

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf

Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, ELS, has been in publishing for 27 years, the first 11 as a production editor for various publishers, and since then as a full-time freelance copyeditor. She is a medical editor with a specialty in editing manuscripts written by non-native speakers of English. Her editing has helped researchers in more than 20 nations get published in more than 30 different medical journals. She is also creator and curator of the Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base, which is housed within her business web site. On Twitter, she is @KOKEdit. She blogs at EditorMom.

  1. What is it about editing that drew you to it?

    I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember. Even at an early age, I spotted spelling errors and what I later learned were errors in syntax and grammar. As a child, I wondered whose job it was to fix those errors, but I didn’t actively seek information about it. When the whole family would ride from our small Texas town to the outskirts of Houston for twice-a-month trips to a big-box grocery store, I’d gaze at a plain building on the way that a small publishing company occupied. For years on those trips, I’d wonder each time what tasks the people in that building did each day as part of their jobs.

    Years later, I earned a journalism degree because no nearby universities that I was aware of offered degrees in publishing; this was in the late 1970s. My first professional job after graduation was as a newspaper journalist, covering the police and health-care beats. But the night hours interfered with having a new baby (my first), so I knew I’d have to find a daytime job. But what kind of work would pay me to write or edit? Oh, yeah–publishing! Eventually, I ended up working in-house as a production editor for a large publisher in Manhattan. What joy to read books, or manuscripts that would become books, every day! I was getting paid to read and to fix errors–or approve the fixes for errors found by freelance copyeditors and proofreaders! What a perfect world!

    Now that I’ve been self-employed for 16 years, I still occasionally look over my shoulder, expecting the fictitious job police to show up and arrest me for having too much fun at work. 🙂

  2. What character/personality trait, if any, do you believe is necessary to edit well?

    I think that four traits are absolutely necessary.

    The first two are a permanent love of details and a constant suspicion that what you’re reading may not be correct. Copyeditors are responsible for working on documents, manuscripts, and online copy to improve their organization, style, accuracy, grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, usage, consistency, clarity, and coherence; to eliminate errors, repetition, wordiness, and incompleteness; and to point out possible libel, plagiarism, copyright infringement, and biased language. If we have to do all that, we had better love working on details and have an irrepressible urge to look up things, even things we think we know.

    The third and fourth traits or abilities are detachment and mind-reading. We must remember that the material we are editing is not our own; it belongs to the author. It’s important to be detached, or not emotionally invested in the copy that we edit, so that we don’t leave any hint of our personality on the piece but instead ensure that it all sounds uniformly like the author’s voice. It helps to develop the ability to read the author’s mind, so that when we must make changes, they are still in the author’s voice and are what the author would have written if he or she had done yet another draft.

  3. What’s the most common mistake you find when you edit?
    Oh, it’s always dangling participial phrases, and they can help conjure up unintentionally hilarious or even salacious images. Here is a modified example from the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition, 5.112:

    Dangling participial phrase: Frequently used in early America, experts suggest that shaming is an effective punishment. (This sentence incorrectly suggests that experts were frequently used in early America.)
    Fixed: Experts suggest that shaming, frequently used in early America, is an effective punishment. (This sentence correctly says that shaming was frequently used.)
  4. What advice would you give aspiring editors or beginning writers?
    1. Read, read, read, read, read. And then read some more, every day of your life and possibly even every waking moment. This will teach you the difference between good and bad writing.
    2. Take writing courses.
    3. Take editing courses.
    4. Write something every day of your life, and get as much of it critiqued as you can. Whether you’re a writer or an editor, get comfortable with being edited, because everyone–even an editor–needs an editor.
    5. Never stop learning
    6. Copyeditors only: Find a mentor or a group of mentors, the latter of which can be in the form of fellow members of a profession-related association (see http://www.kokedit.com/library_CE5.shtml) or in subscribers to a well-run editing-related e-mail list, such as Copyediting-L (see http://www.copyediting-l.info).

  5. Would you share your favorite editing resources with us (books, web sites, conferences, etc.)?
    I have three favorite editing resources:
    1. AMA Manual of Style
    2. The Chicago Manual of Style
    3. The Copyediting-L e-mail list
    For all sorts of editing resources, categorized under 7 topics, I recommend the Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base:
  6. Anything else you’d like to add regarding editing?
    1. Don’t do it if you don’t love it. It’s okay to turn down editing subject matters that don’t appeal to you. If you don’t love editing it, you’ll be doing the copy, its readers, and the authors a disservice, because you won’t do your best work.
    2. Always, always respect the author.
Thank you, Katharine, for our first copyeditor interview. What an amazing resource this is. Everyone thank Katharine in the comments for giving us such a fantastic look into the world of editing.