I Am Not Your Seventh Grade English Teacher

I forget sometimes that people hate copyeditors. Well, I’m sorry if my Chicago cramps your style, but we’re not Nazi nuns working for the SS getting off on correcting your grammar. We are hired by your publisher to give your writing a professional sheen that will reflect well on you.

1. Absolutely everyone’s work can benefit from a good professional edit. Not even Faulkner shat out beautiful gold-egg prose. He worked to get the tone/diction/rhythm right. And then he was edited.

2. I am grateful to every writer who makes typos. You keep me in business. The writers I judge are the ones who talk about “flesh-colored paint.” I expect that you’re less racist and more thoughtful than that.

3. I have a rich inner life, thank you for your concern. I have successful friendships, a relationship with someone other than my cat, and I’m working on my own writing projects. Nothing in my house is at right angles to each other.

4. Your grammar trauma is not my problem. I just change it and don’t think about it again. If you asked, I could probably tell you what your five most frequent writing tics are. But you could also tell that about me by reading my own work.

5. When I’m in a good mood, and the professional relationship is just right, I like to channel my writing tutor self and actually help you become a better writer, rather than just correcting your errors.

6. And your seventh grade English teacher was probably just trying to do the same.


11 responses to “I Am Not Your Seventh Grade English Teacher

  1. Rough day?

    “Flesh-colored paint” is a little gross, no matter the color of the flesh. In fact, flesh/fleshy are two of my least favorite words. Along with moist, fart, and gobble, not necessarily in that order.

  2. I adored my seventh grade English teacher although I was terrified of her. She was sarcastic and biting, but treated us with the same humor she treated her peers. I loved the equality of it, and was in awe of her knowledge.

    As for #3, do people seriously say this to you? Does rude know no bounds? As the Duchess would say, Jaysus!

    • No one said it to me directly, but I’ve definitely heard it when people criticize copyeditors. I wish someone would say it to my face and I’d list every personal and writing success I’ve ever had. Maybe they’d die of boredom.

  3. I have to say, I AM many people’s seventh grade English teacher, and I say many of these same things (worded a little more delicately) to my students. Although they don’t seem too concerned about whether or not I have a rich inner life.

    • Someone actually said that to me when I told him I was getting a job as a copyeditor. “I hope you’re not going to set everything on your desk at right angles to each other.” I’m afraid I laughed in his face.

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