Bulletin Board Notes About Being an Editor

“Don’t ever get to feeling important about yourself, because an editor at most releases energy. He creates nothing.”

—Maxwell Perkins
“Ben talked about how serving as the assistant damage control officer on the USS Philip during World War II had shaped him as a newspaperman. ‘In that job, one is charged with thinking about trouble and how to handle trouble before it handles you. I’ve often thought that ability to control damage is one of the essential skills of an editor.’”

—From Jeff Himmelman’s book, Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee
Ross’s ability to detect falseness of any sort and in any form was one of his most important attributes as an editor. He was naturally drawn to what was genuine, authentic, real, true. His eye and his ear—and another sense or two that he peculiarly possessed—were affronted by a word, a phrase, a sentence, a thought, a bit of information, a line of dialogue, a short story, a piece of reporting, that was not the real thing, that was in one way or another specious, spurious, meretricious, dishonest.”

—William Shawn on Harold Ross, from Brendan Gill’s book, Here at the New Yorker
“Ugliness in writing is whatever doesn’t belong: the wrong word, the extra adjective, the maudlin emotion, the nonessential detail that slows down the story. An editor can’t give the writer an interesting mind but he can get the ugliness out.”

—This was on my office bulletin board but I now don’t know who said it.

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