When Freelance Editors Cross the Line

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I often receive emails from editors who, first, point out an error I’ve made and, second, offer their editing services to me. I’m always happy to receive friendly and constructive criticism and I’m thrilled when somebody points out my oops before thousands of others see it. I don’t, however, hire freelance editors who do this because editing is truly an art and I won’t hire an editor I don’t know. There are far too many so-called editors in business today who have no business editing. There is no licensing requirement for editors so anybody can slap up a website and call themselves an editor. I frequently hear from authors who are trying to get their money back from a freelance editor who actually introduced more errors to their book than they fixed.

Unfortunately, many of the freelance editors who try to drum up business this way send demeaning emails to the people they are correcting, I suppose in an attempt to prove they are better than the writer. It’s like a hairdresser telling you you’re ugly before offering to give you a makeover or a housekeeper calling you a slob before quoting an hourly rate.

I can’t figure out if it’s just a personality quirk of some editors or if they think, for some twisted reason, that sending insulting “you call yourself a writer?” marketing letters will be effective. This is very offensive to potential clients and I can’t imagine many, if any, freelance editors landing new clients by first insulting them and then offering their “professional” services. These types of editors remind me of the hall monitors in elementary school who were always quick to point out someone’s wayward behavior…while pretending they themselves were perfect.

Sometimes editors cross the line when pointing out others’ mistakes, even when they’re not soliciting business. The incident below doesn’t involve me. It involves an editor who criticized the way one of our authors (who’s also a dear friend of ours) refers to his deceased wife on his book page. This is part of the editor’s email:

“The description at the bottom of the page struck a nerve with me since I was a copy editor in my younger life. (Wife’s name) is NOT his ‘former wife;’ she is his ‘late’ wife. I am also widowed and using the term ‘former’ implies divorce. It is insensitive to suggest that a spouse who has died is the ‘former’ spouse. I do hope you’ll correct it.”

Here’s my response:

(Author’s name) adored his wife and misses her everyday. I think it would be incredibly insensitive to try to correct the way someone refers to their deceased spouse – far more incorrect than any alleged grammatical error.