Ma’am! Yes, ma’am!

Published by on August 2, 2016
Categories: Uncategorized


Dear Mr. —,

Excellent. I see my feedback is already working. Your reply is two perfectly spelled and punctuated sentences whose meanings are extremely clear:

You hate me.


You’ve got a little bit of fight in your gut. Maybe you are a real writer after all. Maybe.

However, your response shows you’re operating on a misconception about the role of an editor. If you don’t get mad or scream in fury, then that editor is not serving you well.

I’m happy to have given that first taste of a real editor.

It’s high time you experienced it.

A real editor challenges a writer and points up where they are missing opportunities. A real editor wants a writer to look and sound damned good to the reader. A real editor knows that, after all, writing is only and always about the reader’s experience. Real editors help real writers give their very best to all readers, and willingly sacrifice their own ego’s needs fully expecting real writers to do the same.

Real editors are drill sergeants who’ll get all up in your face and double-dog dare you to prove them wrong. 

Gunnery Sgt. Shawn D. Angell is a drill instructor at the Officer Candidate School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., dedicated to training, educating, evaluating and screening the many candidates who go through the course and turning them into Marine leaders.


Here’s what a real editor isn’t: A real editor isn’t a friend. A real editor isn’t an emotional mother letting a baby get away with pitching a fit. A real editor does not see the need to make their client feel good about themselves if to do so means stroking egos, rubber-stamping output, or pussyfooting around with truthful suggestions.

From Wiki Commons

They don’t believe in group hugs. They don’t give out participation awards. They don’t pass the pipe around the fire and sing kumbaya.



Woman_crying_in_bathroomLest you think I don’t believe I need editors, my works are polished by those who edit top journalists such as war correspondents, business reporters, and sports columnists. Yeah, I get my feelings hurt right along with them, but my editors aren’t worried about winning a popularity contest. My work product shines after they find where I miss the mark.

I hate their guts.
Challenge their assumptions.
Try to explain why they are wrong.
Cry in anger.

But, sweetie, they don’t back down and I fix it. I thank them for helping me not to look like a fool when the public gets hold of my words.

You will be pleased to note that I liked your writing so much that you are the first writer I have ever made first contact with. Writers always reach out to me first. So, there you go…I think you have potential, but when you hire me don’t think that means I will pull my punches. Don’t be surprised if I double down on your butt and make you hate me more.

There’s a reason it’s called Tough Love.


Sincerely, Your Drill Sergeant





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