What’s the typical response when you tell people you’re an editor?

They may not say it, but their expression might convey, Oh, you’re one of those fussy grammarians—just looking to pick apart someone’s writing. Or they picture you in a lush office in a major publisher’s headquarters rubbing shoulders with bestselling authors.

What many do not realize is just how subjective editing is, and how much more comes into play than knowing all the grammar rules. This week, I came across a review of a book by John Russial titled Strategic Copy Editing. The author identifies five characteristics of editing that I trust surprise none of us:

  • Editing is not about nitpicking and finding mistakes. It is about making choices.
  • Editing is about critical thinking.
  • Editing is about working together and respecting others.
  • Editing is about balancing perfection and pragmatism.
  • Editing is about ethics.*

Next week, PENCON will provide an opportunity to fellowship and interact with like-minded colleagues who share Russial’s perspective. For many of us, that alone is reason enough to spend three days online. Honing our skills and developing new relationships are bonus. And while the more extroverted among us might prefer an in-person conference, virtual enables us to enjoy almost all the benefits of in-person from the comfort of our home office.

On behalf of the planning team, our hope and prayer is that you will share the sentiment expressed by one of last year’s attendees: “PENCON is the only conference where the other attendees get me. It’s so refreshing to be among like-minded editors who do what they do because they see it as a calling and a gifting rather than a job.”

*John Russial, Strategic Copy Editing (New York, Guilford Press, 2004).


With her roots firmly planted in the rich Iowa farmland, Judy Hagey brings a Midwestern sensibility to her freelance life. Her goal as an editor is to help writers say what they want with grace, honesty, and authenticity. She has filled various roles in Christian higher education and the nonprofit world, including ten years as the writing director of a ministry producing small-group discipleship materials. Editing credits include theological dissertations, fiction, and nonfiction. A freelance editor for Elk Lake Publishing Judy is a member of Word Weavers International and The Christian PEN and is certified through the Christian Editors Network.