My Definition of a Good Editor Is. . .

By Ray E. Boomhower

“An editor is a person who knows more about writing than writers do but who has escaped the terrible desire to write.” —E. B. White

“One must never forget that writing and editing are entirely different arts, or crafts. Good editing has saved bad writing more often than bad editing has harmed good writing.” —Gardner Botsford

“Nothing is more ephemeral than words. Moving them from the mind of a writer to the mind of a reader is one of the most elusive and difficult undertakings ever to challenge the human intelligence. This is what being an editor is all about.” —Norman Cousins

“Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counseling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, ‘How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?’ and avoid ‘’How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?’” —James Thurber

“An editor should tell the author his writing is better than it is. Not a lot better, a little better.” —T. S. Eliot

“My definition of a good editor is a man I think is charming, who sends me large checks, praises my work, my physical beauty, and my sexual prowess, and who has a stranglehold on the publisher and the bank.” —John Cheever
—–
Ray E. Boomhower is senior editor at the Indiana Historical Society Press, where he edits the quarterly popular history magazine Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History.

Comments

  1. BARNARD COLLIER says:

    Dear Jack,

    My two favorite Twain quotes about editors:

    “How often we recall, with regret, that Napoleon once shot at a magazine editor and missed him and killed a publisher. But we remember with charity, that his intentions were good.”
    – Letter to Henry Mills Alden, published in the Chicago Daily Tribune, November 11, 1906

    “In Austria an editor who can write well is valuable, but he is not likely to remain so unless he can handle a sabre with charm.”
    – Europe and Elsewhere

Speak Your Mind

*