Thursday, September 14, 2017

Inside the Editor's Den: Editorial Style

Editors play a balancing act between editorial style and an author's writing style. We want our clients to keep their voice, their story's voice throughout a work, and we have to make sure that we do that while also keeping the author's words consistent. We use many style books and guides, such as The Chicago Manual of Style to help in this endeavor. Editorial style can also be about how an editor balances the relationships between editor-words-author. Knowing how an editor handles those relationships is important for writers who seek editors.

In part four of our September series Inside the Editor’s Den, we ask BRP editors the following question:

How would you define your editorial style?

Shonell Bacon
Website | FB | Tw
Shonell Bacon - As a person who has always believed she was born to teach, I often treat editing as a space to provide teachable moments. Yes, I want to provide the client with a clean, well-developed story, but I also want to provide them with information that they can take with them into their next story. My most favorite thing as an editor is having a client return with their second book, and that book is better than the first because they learned and applied comments from book one.

Maryann Miller
Website | FB | Tw
Maryann Miller - Where is the Style Maven? (smile) Above all, I try to be kind to the authors who come to me for editing, especially those just starting out. I remember those anxious beginnings and how afraid I was to have my work edited. I make a point to acknowledge what is good in the work, while still being honest about what could be improved. I offer suggestions for that improvement, then leave it to the author to take the suggestions or not. That is for content and developmental editing. Copy editing is pretty cut and dried. A typo is a typo.

Elle Carter Neal
Website | FB | Tw
Elle Carter Neal - Extremely tactful. I think humility is an editor’s best trait, always remembering that we are not the author of the work. Writing is hard work, and should be respected. I pride myself in working with what is already there, rather than insisting the book be different. I constantly dig out what it is the author really wants to achieve with the work, and find a way to make the finished product reflect that intention.

Linda Lane
Website | Denver Editor | FB
Linda Lane - My style is largely reader oriented. Will the story appeal to readers? Do the characters step up from the pages and invite the reader into their lives?

A Writer’s Takeaway

Let's face it. Just about every writer sees their story as their baby. We wouldn't hand our child off to just any person. We would want to see their credentials, see how they interact with the child, with us. These same things apply to writers when they take on the task of looking for an editor.

Yes, it is important that your editor has knowledge of grammar and spelling and punctuation, has an understanding of storytelling and development. It's also important for your editor to adhere to some style guide. These are all parts of having an editorial style. However, if that editor is also crass, smug, and ignorant to their clients' needs, then that editor probably won't have clients for very long. How an editor handles the relationships between her, the author, and the author's work is just as important and is also a part of what editorial style is.

When looking for an editor, don't hesitate to ask them about their editorial style and then consider whether that style will work with who you are as a writer... and with your literary baby.


  1. Even though my response states my style is reader oriented, a lot goes on before the reader ever sees the book; I was addressing the finished product. Shonell, Maryann, and Elle all nailed vital points in dealing with writers. We respect their style and voice; we teach; we correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation; we remember we are the hired help, not the author, and the author has the last word when it comes to suggested changes.

    1. And that is always a worry for some writers, Linda, that an editor will remove their voice from their story.

  2. An editor is also a teacher. I learned more about writing from my editor at Five Star than I learned in years of classes, workshops, and books. When an editor's style includes advice about genre or technique or voice, the writer needs to pay attention.

    1. YES, YES, and YES, Patricia. I totally agree. I actually think a reason I became an editor is that I knew I was meant to teach, and editing to me is about teaching more so than simply cleaning up text.

  3. I do a great deal of teaching as I edit, too. The book I am working on now has some problems that a new writer does not quickly recognize in a first book, so I am pointing that out as I make suggestions for changes.

  4. All good points, and since I'm almost ready to send my latest off to my editor--after a round of self-edits and beta readers--I'm paying attention.


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