« An Interview with Prime Number’s Editor Clifford Garstang | Main | “Creative” Copyediting Redux—Don’t Be Afraid »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I've done a little copyediting (at a non-pro level), and I occasionally ran into the problem of taking the creative tinkering a little too far, which is to say that the author didn't like my recommendations for their text. How do you, as one of the top pros, balance the creative nature of copyediting with the author's ownership of the text? Is there a good way to avoid overstepping your bounds? Are authors (thinking mostly fiction here) ever wrong in their possessiveness, or is this not even much of a problem when you're working with professional writers?

Carol Saller

Thanks, Melissaipsa—this is an excellent question. I'll answer it next time. —Carol


I feel that you're conflating "fun," and "creative" in this post, without providing a lot of support for your claim that copyediting work is creative.

I know that a certain brand of creativity within the constraints of the project can be an asset in a copyeditor. A copyeditor who can suggest a snappier subheading or re-write a sentence to solve copyfit problems so that the sentence preserves both the author's meaning and voice is an awesome asset to have on a project. A copyeditor who takes it upon herself to "fix" the author's style or voice, or rewrite approved text can display rather too much creativity, and might be better off selling her services as a writer or developmental editor.

Carol Saller

Jennie, thanks for your thoughts. But I'm not talking about silly fun—I'm talking about the deeper joy and satisfaction that comes with meeting a challenge creatively, whether physical or intellectual. I can't think of anything more "fun" than that. —Carol

Julie Stella

I work with an academic author who writes exactly as he talks. When I edit his work, I do use creativity to turn his words around a bit and help him capture what he is actually saying. He's brilliant. I help him by switching around his modifiers a bit, and suggesting different text when he repeats words in a sentence. It seems to work well, and it's satisfying, creative work.

As for going too far, I find that if I always approach from the perspective of "I'm here to help *you* sound like *you*," things usually go well. I also tend to make actual changes to the text for only grammar and style edits. Anything else, I consider a "suggestion" and I share those in comments or a cover letter to the author.


I'm utterly bemused that anyone would think otherwise. Journalists usually have to conform to house style and no one would say that they're not creative.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)