Friday, October 10, 2008

Loving your copy editor

Well, I married one so I'm biased.

Dorothy Gallagher's appreciation of her former editor says a lot about writing. It ran in the Sept.28 New York Times Book Review. It's still online with a great graphic of a rose made out of red pencil shavings.

Helene had no literary theories — she had literary values. She valued clarity and transparency. She had nothing against style, if it didn’t distract from the material. Her blue pencil struck at redundancy, at confusion, at authorial vanity, at the wrong and the false word, at the unearned conclusion. She loved good writing, therefore she loved the reader: good writing did not cause the reader to stumble over meaning. By the time Helene was finished with me seven years later, I knew how to read a sentence and how to fix one. I knew what a sentence was supposed to do. I began to write my own sentences; needless to say, the responsibility for them is my own.

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