Editing Advice from One of the First New Yorker Editors

Paul Carr:

Flipping back through an old (1959) copy of the Penguin paperback edition the other day, I landed on Thurber’s long extract from a memo by New Yorker copy editor Wolcott Gibbs, in which Gibbs shares with Ross some of his rules for editing the magazine’s fiction writers.

Gibbs offers colorful, no-nonsense advice like this:

Writers always use too damn many adverbs. On one page recently I found eleven modifying the verb ‘said’. ‘He said morosely, violently, eloquently, so on.’ Editorial theory should probably be that the writer who can’t make his context indicate the way his character is talking ought to be in another line of work. Anyway, it is impossible for a character to go through all these emotional states one after the other. Lon Chaney might be able to do it, but he is dead.

Read all the advice here.

I Need a Mentor

I sometimes wish more people heeded this advice:

Not everything in our professional lives is a transaction, scrutinized and evaluated against how much it costs us, how much someone should pay. Not every teaching relationship must be formalized—a mentoring opportunity, a coach, an internship. Not every investment of time has to be “worth it.” Sometimes you just have a brief conversation with someone because—why not? You never know what will come of it.