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Fear of the Dread Red Pen | Lady Myers' Wordsmithing

Fear of the Dread Red Pen

I cannot seem to get off of a ridiculous urge to merge rhyming words. Anyway. . .

You may or may not know about the Word of the Day game we play on the LMWS Facebook Page. Basically, I post the word, definition, and a sentence and encourage others to come up with their own sentence using the word. I know that just reading a word doesn’t mean I’ve learned it, but once I’ve put it into practice, it sticks better. Besides learning a new word, the goal of this game is to inspire play, creativity and community.

Lucky for me, one member of that community was brave enough to voice a fear that is probably keeping others from joining in more often. This brave person said that while she wanted to participate more, she was afraid of getting it wrong. Yikes! Fear is not something I want to inspire. It’s okay to have it, but I want to clarify that my approach to words has nothing to do with red pens and judgment. It’s about opening up our vocabulary, to have more words available to express whatever it is that needs expression through words. We can’t learn without getting it wrong sometimes. And I get it wrong too! I may be a wordsmith and have certain related superpowers, but sometimes when I’m working on my WOD sentence, I’m really not sure if I’m doing it right.

I figure this is a good opportunity to let you know more about the philosophy of the editing we do around here.

First, Do No Harm

I may not be a doctor but I understand that the words my clients hand over to me are living, breathing pieces of them. The last thing I want to do is cut them to editorial ribbons. Please know that when you hand your baby over to me, I am almost as invested in its wellbeing as you are (no one can be as invested as you, but I come darn close).

I will work with you on the best way to edit so your words do exactly what you mean them to do.

I will never make you feel stupid or wrong. I will help show you the best way to shine your brilliance.

Custom Editing

I always use two colors while editing, one to show you my changes and one to show you what requires your attention. We can pick colors that you like, and red can be left out entirely if you so choose.

If you have made a conscious style choice, like only using lowercase, that becomes part of the way I edit. Instead of changing all of the first letters of sentences to uppercase, I’ll make sure they’re lowercase.

Another superpower I have is empathy, which means I can ensure that your work stays sounding like you no matter what.

You Get the Final Say, Always

I will make suggestions. You may not agree with them. I will defer to you.

I will be very detailed when making changes until we are comfortable with each other. I may point out a quirk, like overusing “more on that later,” that you instantly agree needs revision and I’ll just fix it from then on. I will never make carte blanche changes without express permission.

There are certain rules of wordsmithing that exist for good reason, but it is not your job to know about all of them. It is my job to show you where you could benefit from using them, and then you can make an informed choice.

The Dread Red Pen is on a bunch of UN-wanted posters around here. Unless that’s your thing. Then I can probably track him down.

Try This At Home

Before submitting your work to an editor, get clear on what is and is not okay with you. Write it down and make sure your editor knows about it before he/she starts work. There may be some gray areas, where you can compromise with your editor without feeling like you’ve lost anything important. Collect samples of writers who have a similar style and use them for reference (not comparison!).

What else scares/intimidates/worries you about working with an editor? Leave a comment below or send me an email at cmyers@ladymyerswordsmithing.com.


    • Aw, thanks!


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