My Journey to Professional Editor

I’ve been editing professionally since 2001, and non-professionally (and possibly unprofessionally) since I was twelve. You heard me. For two years, in junior high, Miss Disher marched us straight through Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition and never skipped a single page.

We had to write out all the sentences—every last, boring, tedious one—and diagram them. And every week, we had to write a composition. Miss Disher handed them back covered with red-pencil corrections and suggestions for us to incorporate. When we handed them back in, rewritten, they were better. And we had learned something. I can’t imagine a better training ground for a writer and editor.

I have good literary instincts and an excellent ear, a solid grounding in grammar and punctuation, a strong sense of syntax, and a deep feeling for the rhythm of writing. I’m one of those hopeless nerds who likes reading the dictionary. I am a passionate believer in the serial comma. I know the rules and when I don’t, I look them up. (When I get tired of reading the dictionary, I read The Chicago Manual of Style or Strunk and White.)

I have been a compulsive reader since my first Nancy Drew at age eight. I’m not sure when I realized that I was mentally rewriting passages that caught at me, like a piece of gum on the sidewalk, but to this day that’s how I know a word or a paragraph needs work. It tugs at me and, in my head, I hear the sentence the way it should be. When I read a piece of writing that lets me sail on, unhindered, without the least inclination to rewrite a word, I know I’m in the hands of an extraordinary writer (and usually a really good editor).


Expertise and Intuition

Sometimes I use sentence fragments or begin sentences with And–or both. I have even been known to end a sentence with a preposition because sometimes, a preposition is the best thing to end a sentence with. But the most important thing for my clients to understand is my bone-deep conviction that your book is your creation, not mine. I am absolutely adamant about preserving the author’s voice and intent.

Writing is important. I believe that good writing can change a life—or change the world. I also believe that every writer needs a good editor—even great writers. Even editors need editors. Because good editing makes good writing better. One red-penciled word at a time.

Thanks, Miss Disher.

Lori Brown Patrick