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Ah,,,,the temptation. The angst. When you are editing someone else's work and you feel that you could express their thoughts so much better than they did. I did this once (because the writing was terrible). And after feeling the wrath of the author - never again. I learned to respect the author's words and right to make bad word choices, despite the fact that it wasn't like I would have written it..... good luck as a copy editor and it's a good lesson to learn earlier rather than later.

Meg Cox

This is my favorite part of Carol's response: "You seem to be self-aware, but know that there are writers who exaggerate and even err in their assessments. You might have done better than you think."

I think Lee should start by getting a second opinion--perhaps from the assigning editor at the press he's working for--before offering a complete redo to a potentially unsatisfiable author.

Carol Kennedy

From the beginning of my copyediting career, I have maintained that every copy editor should have tattooed (at least metaphorically) across his or her knuckles: It's Not My Book. I do not consider "That's not the way I would write it" to EVER be sufficient reason to change something.

OTOH, I have had an author absolutely insist that an error in fact be stetted, even when I produced evidence that it was an error. I agree with Meg's comment above; a second opinion, from an experienced editor/copy editor, would be valuable.

Carol Saller

I agree about getting a second opinion; I recently wrote about that in a post about dealing with bogus feedback from writers (http://bit.ly/OhxlRj). Today, however, I was hoping to talk about what to do when you know you blew it.

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