Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and where are you operating currently?
Born, raised, and still living in the suburbs of Central New Jersey (though I have lived in both England and Israel). I’m about an hour outside of NYC and even closer to the beach. My husband (a high school film teacher) and I have been married 25 years and we have two children—a college freshman and a high school junior—two cats and one dog. You can imagine what it’s been like working from home with all of the virtual schooling this past year.
I can only imagine. How did you get your start as an editor? How long have you been working with Scripted?
I actually went into publishing right from college—I took a job working as an editorial assistant with John Wiley & Sons. Unfortunately, I ended up in their chemical encyclopedia division, which was far from glamorous, as you’d imagine. Years later, when I was pregnant with my son, I was forced to work from home, and I decided to fall back on my experience as an editor to “go” freelance. It’s been an unexpected road these last nearly 20 years, and I’m thankful to some generous clients who helped me build my business through word of mouth, and to Scripted, which asked me to try out as an editor back when I was just writing for the platform. That was a little more than five years ago.
What makes a good editor?
I truly believe the most important thing an editor has to keep in mind is that it’s NOT their writing. Preserving the author’s voice is so important to me. Of course, when I edit Scripted pieces it’s a little bit different than when I edit a poetry journal or a book, and there are different levels and types of editing, too. Editors are responsible for fine-tuning and finessing a piece to conform to whatever standards the client wants, while also making sure it flows smoothly and uses correct grammar, punctuation, style rules, etc. Our job is to make the writer better and make the written piece better. Of course, with Scripted there’s the added layer of making sure the client is satisfied, too.
Beyond all that—consistency. Be sure everything is consistent. If you change something in one place, make sure it matches up everywhere else. There’s nothing more glaring than tone, voice, style, and punctuation that isn’t consistent.
Are there any tools you use when editing content?
I have subscriptions to both the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Style Guide, and I consult them both daily. As a freelance editor, I typically have to juggle editing for different styles, as well as companies that have their own style guides, and there’s just no way to keep some things straight in my head. Add to that one client who wants the serial (Oxford comma) and another who doesn’t, and you’ll understand why editors often seem to get bogged down in minutiae.
What advice do you have for Scripted Writers who want to avoid their content being sent back for revisions by an Editor?
Follow the client’s style guide. After (or in conjunction with) reading a piece through for grammar and punctuation, I look at the same instructions as the writer does to make sure they’ve met all of the client’s requirements. Of course, be sure to also re-read the article before submitting it. Are there typos? Do the links work? Is it in the active voice as much as possible? Use the tools that Scripted recommends (I like Hemingway more than Grammarly) before submitting the piece. Remember that editors shouldn’t be writing the pieces—that’s still the writer’s job.
What are the most common mistakes you encounter when editing?
Well, there are many, but my biggest pet peeve is the myth that originated somewhere about not capitalizing words that are three letters or less in a title. This means I constantly capitalize “is” and “be.” Conjunctions and prepositions fewer than five letters (AP style), yes—they’re lowercased. Verbs are capitalized—even the small ones.
Other common mistakes have to do with punctuation—where to put commas, does a period go within a quotation mark or after it, etc. Many writers also use the single quotation mark when it’s almost always supposed to be the double. And dates—we may say “March 1st” in our heads, but it’s always written as “March 1.” Dates don’t use ordinal numbers (except for instances like “the 1st of March”), though you’ll see it wrong everywhere.
And lastly, the active voice. I know Scripted has this as a writing requirement. For good reason! Too many writers write passively, and it’s really easy to change your writing to the active voice. Active voice renders a piece much less vague and so much more authoritative.
Got any horror stories?
I’ve had writers who, when I sent back a completely edited document on which they needed to fix one or two things, sent back a piece that no longer had any of my original edits. That’s a horror story for any editor. But other than that, no big horror stories—just a bit of frustration and sometimes some laughable moments. I remember a Scripted writer some years back (I won’t mention the project, but it was a big one with a well-known client) who insisted that the “world-famous St. Andrews Golf Club” was somewhere in Kansas.