I unconsciously proofread and edit books, essays, newspapers, magazines, brochures, signs, menus, and business cards as I read them. I slip notes through drive-in windows to businesses who have signs taped to the window that say no checks, sorry for the inconvience. They don’t fix the signs, but you should.
Before personal computers, there were typesetters. I happily ran my one-person shop for twelve years. My clients were mostly printers and advertising agencies and the variety of text I typeset was astounding. There were no spellcheckers or Internet—there were dictionaries and reference books, and I considered it part of my job to make corrections. However, it was not my job to edit clients’ text, and it wasn’t easy.
When typesetting went the way of rotary phones and videotape, I landed a job at a small specialized editorial service in Old Saybrook, CT, whose main client was Oxford University Press. We were eventually assimilated into the company as the U.S. Dictionaries Department. Our focus was Americanizing many of OUP’s extensive collection of dictionaries. We edited, reformatted, updated, and sometimes abridged dictionaries and thesauruses. OUP had never illustrated dictionaries, and part of my job was to choose and oversee the production of over a thousand illustrations. I handled the plant illustrations myself.
Along with the many mechanical tasks involved in creating dictionaries, I learned how to condense complicated concepts into a few lines. Lexicographers are masters at this, and I learned from the best. This is the essence of dictionary work and never had something appealed to me so much.
A change in management closed our Old Saybrook office in 2002 and all but one of us were let go. I tried to stay in publishing. Frustrated while working for a local newspaper and unable to accept the quality of writing I was asked to process, I turned to physical work to support myself, starting a housecleaning business so I could work for myself.
I continue to freelance for OUP, performing a variety of research and editorial tasks, most recently on the third edition of New Oxford American Dictionary published in September 2010, and the second edition of Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, due out later this year.
In August of 2011 fiction writer Kay Camden contracted me to edit her synopsis and query letter for her first novel. Her testimony to my work can be found here: How to Write the Perfect Synopsis.
I am available for a wide variety of editorial tasks. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your needs.