Editorial Terrorism

I’ve often thought that writers might like to know something about the preoccupations of editors, and that editors might find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in being misunderstood now and then. To my great surprise, it seems that Carol Saller has written just the thing — The Subversive Copyeditor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself). So happy to see that..! But according to the New York Times review, “Saller herself … once told her son she had to keep editing because she couldn’t think of another job to which she was so well suited. His response: ‘Maybe you could be a terrorist’.”

The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller

This says much about how editing and editors are sometimes, perhaps, perceived… Why “terrorist”? Saller’s son might be relating a single-minded insistence on being right, along with a willingness to go to extremes. as hallmarks of the terrorist but also as traits sometimes attributed to editors. Now the title makes more sense — could it be that subverting “editorial terrorism” [scary quotes, to be addressed in further posts] is Saller’s real subject?

What I hope to find in this book, however, is something I already know: Editors respect the writer’s voice and art, and gently employ editorial skills (and knowledge, training, experience, talent) to ensure the accuracy and integrity of every piece.

Words for today: The editor is always on the writer’s side.

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