In this recurring feature, we’re sharing tips for editors from the desk of Douglas Gibson. Good for those starting out or old hands who need a reminder, these reminders form an engaging guide for sharp-eyed wordsmiths.
In her 2012 book The Literary Legacy of the Macmillan Company of Canada: Making Books and Mapping Culture, Ruth Panofsky quotes the editorial policy of the legendary publisher John Morgan Gray: “Gray’s ‘first job’ was to help authors realize their ‘full potential’ and he consistently followed his own ‘golden rule’ for editors: ‘[When] dealing with writers who know what they are doing don’t edit any more than requested to do; stand by to help if called on. Occasionally even the most assured writer will get too close to his work and may then welcome a hint of how it appears to someone else . . . The ideal role for the editor calls for sympathetic understanding, some talent for listening, judgment and good sense.’”