Are Editors Really as Mean as They Look?

Ask the Editor Series, Q1

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Q: Are editors really as mean as they look?

A1: That’s ridiculous. Looks can be deceiving. We can be so much meaner. Just ask our children.

A2: It’s complicated, and here’s why.

Even the nicest editors don’t always look as friendly as they are, because . . . well, we’re always thinking. And thinking uses up all our energy with inner things, causing us to forget about the outer things—like what’s going on with our faces. We’re often accused of having what’s known as RBF: Resting . . . um, Blank Face. We don’t mean anything by it, though.

You may have seen a popular quote by Amy Einsohn, author of The Copyeditor’s Handbook, that says, “In many ways, being a copyeditor is like sitting for an English exam that never ends: at any moment, your knowledge of spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, syntax, and diction is being tested.” This is a statement full of such truth, but for those who are called to be copyeditors, it doesn’t feel like a hardship.

Even so, our “outer look” often doesn’t reflect that we consider polishing the written word to be a joy and a privilege. Go ahead, snicker away. We really do feel that way. It’s a pretty terrific feeling when we know we’ve taken a good manuscript and made it better. Or gotten a terrible one and made it good. Or worked on an excellent one and found those three missing end quotation marks the author missed, even if almost nothing else needed changed.

The one thing I can tell you for certain is that most editors are NOT mean to their clients. I know I’m not, and I know a fair number of editors who take great pains to say what they need to in a way that won’t offend or upset their writers, even when hard truths need to be addressed.

We’re really quite polite, when push comes to shove. In fact, no pushing or shoving is involved in 98.7% of the editing process. * So don’t fear the editor! Don’t fear the reaper, either, but that’s encouragement for another post.

*Your mileage may vary.


If you have any questions, don’t forget to

Ask Lynda the Awesomest Editor

All the answers . . . according to me!


By Lynda Dietz

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Lynda has been fascinated with the written word since she first learned her alphabet. She is somewhat of a woman of mystery—this is in part because people shake their heads and whisper, “What in the world . . .?” when she walks by. The real enigma is that she’s a copyeditor/grammar thug to the nth degree, yet being around her is like having a one-person, personal parade at hand.

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