Tag Archives: Editor

Word Sick? How to Find Relief

pen_and_paper“I hate writing. I love having written.” This adage is variously attributed to such well-known authors as Dorothy Parker, Mark Twain, Eudora Welty, Neil Simon, Gloria Steinem, Joan Didion, Ernest Hemingway and William Zinsser, but it applies to less-accomplished writers as well. Anytime an average person has to write a letter to an insurance company, a cover letter for an important application, or a complicated legal disposition, for example, putting his or her thoughts down on paper or into a word-processing file can be daunting. If you’re not confident in your own way with words, an experienced editor can provide a map and a push in the right direction. “Being a good writer mostly means being a good observer and a good thinker,” editor and author Gene Weingarten notes in his introduction to his essay collection The Fiddler on the Subway. “With work, it’s possible to triumph over a lack of innate writing skill.”

That’s good to know, because Weingarten’s introduction also acknowledges that writing can be hard work and full of frustration. “A real writer is someone for whom writing is a terrible ordeal,” the Washington Post columnist writes. “That is because he knows, deep down, with an awful clarity, that there are limitless ways to fill a page with words, and that he will never, ever, do it perfectly. On some level, that knowledge haunts him all the time. He will always be juggling words in his head, trying to get them closer to a tantalizing, unreachable ideal.”

Aggravated by your own attempts to reach that ideal? Here’s a prescription for quick relief: Take two ibuprofen and call an editor in the morning.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing Tips

Find Out What an Editor Does

The Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) has published the 11-page brochure “So You Want to Be an
Editor, ”  a guide for people interested in editing as a profession. Many parts of it would also be beneficial for someone thinking about hiring an editor, explaining the many things editors do and the many reasons efficient communication is important in all fields.

Here’s favorite list in the brochure (edited by me, of course!):

  1. Editors think for a living.
  2. Successful editors turn their love of language into a way to earn a living and have an impact on the world around them.
  3. Editors are team players, often working with writers, publishers and other editors to reach a common goal.
  4. Technology is changing the way that editors do their work and the types of documents they deal with, but not the reason for editing. An editor’s goal is always the same: to improve communication.

Nicely said.

EAC is making the brochure available for free. Read the text or download it as a PDF from

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing Tips, Strokes & Plugs

What an Editor Does, for the Most Part

To edit a document, whether it’s a single-page letter or a lengthy article, I try to read it, beginning to end. If  I can keep reading all the way to the end without stopping, then the writer has done a pretty good job. If I can’t get through the first paragraph, well, the writer may need some help.Regardless, I skim to the end of the document. Then I go back to the beginning and start playing with the words.

Pen in HandTo begin, I must first know the purpose of the document, its desired length and its intended audience. Those three variables determine the language and style that will be utilized.

When I edit the writing, I am not  necessarily looking to cut. I edit the writing to:

  • Omit needless words.
  • Aid clarity. 
  • Vary language, so specific words are not used too often, such as twice in one sentence or paragraph, or in related headlines.
  • Vary sentence length and punctuation to establish a conversational rhythm and flow to the writing, or vary the rhythm for effect.
  • Ensure adequate transition from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, section to section.
  • Capture and keep a reader’s attention.
  • End on a definitive note.

Good editing should not change the original voice of the writing, just make it communicate better and more efficiently.

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing Tips, Writing Tips

Sending an Email: Why You Need an Editor

Version 5 of Microsoft’s Style for Technical Communications, which came out in June 2010, changed the company’s style of hyphenating e-mail and writing Web site as two words, capitalizing Web. Henceforth in Microsoft communications, email (a noun, still never a verb) will have no hyphen. Web will now be lowercase, “except when referring to a UI element or feature name, such as Web Slice, or in the phrase World Wide Web.” Website and webpage have become one word, but all other two-word web terms remain as two words.

A Microsoft memo explained; “We’re making this change to Microsoft style to improve consistency across Microsoft content and to align with the evolution of these terms in technological and general usage.” The memo also noted, “Dropping the hyphen from email is a style decision particular to this word. Other e-words, such as e-commerce, will keep their hyphens, and all other words with hyphens will continue to be hyphenated. However, avoid e-words when you can use words without the prefix, and don’t coin new e-words. For example, use commerce and mail rather than e-commerce and email when the context is clear.”

What’s important here is not what policies Microsoft adopts, but that Microsoft is yet another powerful and accepted authority in the field of grammar, style and usage–one of many, in fact. So many well-argued interpretations are on the Internet today that many traditional rules on grammar and spelling are becoming more arbitrary than absolute.

Certainly, in many cases there can be more than one way (or should it be over one way?) to be correct. However, there is only one way to be consistent. Companies, organizations and individuals should set their own style guides for words and phrases common to their communications, and then stick to them. Another pair of eyeballs can never hurt in accomplishing that goal. Hire an editor.

Leave a comment

Filed under Behind the Words, Commentary, Editing Tips