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I am an editor at the University of California Press and author of the first full-length handbook ever published on the subject of developmental editing.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Willful Misreading

A good DE is an active listener. Rather than cite rules of grammar or style, the DE tries to show the author how her text’s message can be misheard: “This is what this paragraph says to me…” Often, the DE is so close to the text that she understands what the author is trying to say but realizes that most readers will not. In those cases, the DE must engage in “willful misreading.” If an author hears that her own editor is getting a different message than the one she intends, she will usually be “scared straight” and try a fresh approach.


  1. and I thought you were 30!
    Interesting: I forwarded this to another developmental editor colleague at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

  2. The white in the beard tells the tale...

  3. I just saw your book on Amazon and did an author search that brought me here. We need reputable sources and mentors in the field of DE and you stand out as one of the best. It's nice to see your blog on the heels of your book.

  4. Thank you for the kind words, Mary. I'll be interested to hear what you think of the book if you get a chance to read it. I've been in the world of books for some time now, but this blog business is new to me. I can see from your blog that you are accomplished in this medium. So many blogs lack focus, but yours is a dynamic book review with a clear point of view. I will follow you with interest!

  5. Scott, what editing software do you recommend for a freelance DE? What version of Word is best? Feel free to email me at

  6. Mary, rather than suggest a particular version, let me propose a guiding principle. The freelancer needs to stay relatively current with whatever application is most used in the industry. For the past decade, the clear favorite has been Word. A freelancer can't afford to buy every upgrade, but whenever a major upgrade occurs--like the one from operating system (OS) 9 to OSX (Apple went roman on us at 10)--the freelancer needs to make the investment. She should check with the publisher about version compatibility before starting a project, and should check with the author, too, if files will go directly to the author for review. It's easy to "save down" Word to earlier versions, but there's no "saving up" to OSX because its architecture is radically different from previous versions.

    I started my career on a Commodore, went on to a Wang, and first redlined text in a program called XyWrite--all of which have gone the way of the dinosaurs. I have seen people rendered obsolete because they tied their careers to a specific machine or software (especially in the typesetting world). The best advice I can give is to stay current and flexible.