Tag Archives: editing

Up to my posterior

‘Lancing is feast or famine. A month or so ago, all I had ahead of me was a couple of short story editing jobs. On my plate, right now:

  • A complete read of a novel with commentary preparatory to editing. I have to do it this way because there are decisions remaining that the author should be making, not me making for her. Oh, and it’s 500 pages.
  • A re-read of an updated ms that the author believes is now ready for editing. Not as lengthy, but with important decisions and feedback to be considered and offered.
  • Consulting with a client about future project ideas. He will probably take most of my advice, so my advice had better not be stupid or half-baked.
  • Co-authoring a book on, what else? Writing books.
  • Oh, and any day now, a technical writing/proofing project will come along, and need to be done more or less immediately.
  • Oh, and for all I know, something else could show up.
  • Oh, and it’s billpaying time.
  • Oh, and I’m still kind of tired from holidays and bowl games.

I wish it were always this way. Nothing is so invigorating as to have entirely too much work. Furthermore, ‘lancers can never phone it in. Every one of the above projects requires and deserves the best attention I can devote to it.

So what do you do? I prioritize, and if necessary, keep multiple balls rolling. Whatever time belongs to a given project, I do nothing else while I do it.


What you might not know about writers, editors and proofreaders

And there’s a lot.


  • A surprising number of us are unbearable. Truly. The dirtiest little secret about writers, in my view, is how many of us have some paralytic personality flaw that means we are best off away from polite society. Don’t lament that J.D. Salinger became reclusive; realize that he was probably doing humanity a good deed.
  • What motivates us to write varies from person to person, but one thing is consistent: at one point, we were all terrible, and great irritants to others. Some of us improved.
  • You’d be astonished how much writing is done while drunk. Ernest Hemingway wasn’t so anomalous. I am not convinced James Joyce ever wrote a sober line. Anthony Burgess wrote most of A Clockwork Orange, one of my favorites, through a haze of ethanol. I have sent off work that disturbed me so profoundly that I could not finish drafting it with a clear head.
  • Few of us make any money. That is for several reasons. 1) Most of us cannot market and hate marketing, considering it icky. 2) What many of us want to write is not what many people will pay to read. 3) A lot of us consider ourselves too good to take on the writing that really does pay. 4) In an increasingly less literate nation, we are not exactly in rising demand.
  • Writer’s block, which does not exist unless you author it and dignify it with the name, is not the main bugbear for writers, though it’s a handy excuse for not wanting to write and not desiring to admit that. The main bugbear is ego: the deep-seated fear that one will be exposed as a fake.
  • Pet peeve? People who love to catch me in a simple human error when I’m not in a professional writing situation. “Ha ha! You spelled that wrong!” So petty, so childish, and so lowers my opinion of someone.
  • Writers with no senses of humor about themselves and their foibles are beyond retrieval.


  • Editors come in many levels of competency. There are no certifications.
  • When you communicate with us in writing, most of us aren’t mentally correcting your grammar and spelling. People have to pay us to do that. If no one is paying, that means no one wants us doing that. Nothing is gained by doing it for free just to be an ass, or because we can. That’d just alienate people. Some damned smart people are ESL, or have disabilities, stuff like dyslexia, or various other reasons they aren’t great typists or grammarians.
  • Not every editor is right for every writer. For example, I am not a good editor for someone who can’t write and cannot face that reality when presented with tact. I just have to live with that.
  • Editors who take pleasure in hammering stakes into writers’ work are unprofessional and shortsighted. They exist. They are addicted to that self-absorbed jolly they get from a well-crafted misericord run up under the writer’s ribs. Most can’t make any money editing. We call those ‘Amazon reviewers.’ They are competent to point out flaws, but evidently incompetent to help authors remedy them.
  • Editing processes can vary a great deal from editor to editor and from project to project. For example, if on the initial evaluation, I am sent an outdated version of a ms, then an updated version, the value of my work is gutshot because once I begin reading for the first time and thinking, a new version will require me to doubt every ‘feel’ that I gained, for I cannot get a truly clean second set of first impressions. For others, that’s not a problem.
  • Before you snark that the author “obviously didn’t hire a competent editor,” consider this: you have no idea what the ms looked like before the editor got to work. You also have no idea how many edits were rejected by the author. It may have been so bad that the editor asked for Alan Smithee credits and didn’t get that courtesy.
  • Editors without senses of humor about themselves and their work cannot be saved. Take them behind the barn, and return without them.


  • We are born, not made. I know of no way to make someone care about precision and minutiae, nor to train them to do so.
  • Our processes vary, as do our competencies. My own is simple: I do it all twice at least. And if on the second pass I find anything of significance, I do it a third. A fourth and fifth, if need be. My credibility and value lie in missing nothing. For a good proofreader, a solitary mistake is unacceptable.
  • Proofreading may at times verge into light editing. The ability to handle that shift with minimal effort is a valuable thing.
  • As with editors, before you snark that the proofreader obviously did the job high on meth, bear in mind that publishers can blunder so monumentally as to publish unedited versions of a given ms. It happened to Allen Barra, a very capable author who could reasonably have expected better from a prominent publishing house. If the product is defective, the publisher is at fault. It was the publisher’s duty to assure that there were zero errors in the publication-ready ms.
  • To be a capable proofreader, you have to enjoy finding errors. To get paid to do it, you have to learn not to spike that particular ball in the end zone. You are in the business of telling people they did it wrong. No one is having fun when that happens, or if you are, no one will want to work with you. You need not apologize for doing your job well, but if you exult in all your catches, people will hate you.
  • Proofreaders who can’t face the fact that even they will miss mistakes are doomed. Do what I do: utter a sentence full of shocking blasphemies and gutter vulgarities, apologize and abase yourself, and move on. And don’t ever miss one again!

But you will.

Newly published: Both Sides Now, by Shawn Inmon with Dawn Inmon

Shawn is the author of the true-life romance Feels Like the First Time, the story of his lost-and-found high school romance. I was his proofreader there, and he asked me to edit the sequel Both Sides Now, available for sale today. This book examines the same events from his sweetheart’s perspective.

When Shawn first contacted me about the project, I thought it had potential, but I also saw him facing some powerful challenges. This was to be Dawn’s story, not his. It should be told in her voice, not his. Shawn is extroverted and given to a lot of superlatives, whereas Dawn is more laconic and introverted, with no tendency to exaggerate. What would jump out at Shawn, Dawn might not notice, and vice versa. Shawn’s basic character runs counter to the gender stereotype of masculine emotional stolidity, so he was well equipped to consider some differences in how she might see the world, but it was still going to be a hard go.

Another challenge for him: pry the details out of Dawn.  Shawn can and will talk one’s ear off (and it’s usually insightful, puckish and entertaining). Dawn isn’t a Vulcan or anything, but she learned in life to keep things inside–if you read the book, as I hope you will, I promise you’ll learn why–so she is not prone to waste words, and unsolicited elaboration does not come naturally to her.

I felt very handicapped by not having met Dawn, and both of them saw the potential value in a meetup, so they graciously invited me to their home. I also felt somewhat of a duty. I’d seen sensitive parts of both their lives close up, yet neither had yet had any chance to size me up in person. Dawn in particular had not; to her, one presumes,  I was this eastern Washington guy Shawn worked with on the first book and his novella. Shawn turned out to be just as advertised: as Falstaffian and fun-loving as one might expect of a fifty-year-old man who still participates in a KISS tribute band and would have to look up the word ’embarrassment.’ Dawn was a lady of relatively few words and a steady gaze. Her natural shyness was easy enough for me to accept, because I’m similar. So, my task: in limited time, sit down on the couch and begin asking my hostess about the events of FLTFT as she remembered them, posing very personal questions of a woman I had just met about some of the most painful and difficult times of her life. No pressure.

That isn’t easy for me, because it’s not my nature to pry even with longtime friends. If all my posts about privacy issues tell you nothing else about me, that would be your one sure takeaway. I had to force myself. This was work, my job; without knowing Dawn’s voice, how could I edit it? So, with Shawn whipping up spaghetti in the kitchen, listening in with an invigorated smile, I began to ask Dawn to tell me about her life. One suspects that watching me gave Shawn some interviewing tips, but I had a natural advantage. I hadn’t been emotionally involved in anything that had occurred, nor had I seen it firsthand, thus I didn’t have my own memories intruding. I had no first-person perspective to break out of. I’d obviously read FLTFT exhaustively, to the last comma and loose space, but that’s not the same as living the story.

When one considers that she was speaking to a stranger about life events of the sort that most people would like to forget, I found Dawn a very calm, candid subject, even brave.  What she was feeling inside, I didn’t know and didn’t ask; maybe I should have, maybe I did rightly not to. I also got an answer to one question I didn’t pose, but that lurked in my mind: would she be shy about having her story printed to stand before the public? Dawnconically: no. I also saw strong hints of how she had gotten through a lot of life’s trials. As I said to Shawn over spaghetti, “there’s steel in there.” What Dawn made of me was difficult to say, though before the visit was done, I saw signs that she’d warmed to me. For the record, Mr. and Mrs. Inmon are wonderfully kind hosts, accommodating without hesitation my need to perform physical therapy exercises which somewhat disrupted their home arrangements. Anyone who gets the chance to hang out with them should take it.

I’d also like to drive a stake through one ill-begotten comment I saw in a couple of reviews. Anyone who imagines that this story is embellished or invented can take it from me: while I didn’t suspect that at all, I was doing my mental due diligence by force of habit. There is no way Dawn could have answered me so readily and frankly about the story without having lived it. Often–and especially when I got a brief reply–I’d ask a quick follow-up question for more details; a deceptive subject trips on those, which is why all police use the technique. Dawn did not trip. The historian in me is satisfied that events in both books are accurate to the best of their recollections and note comparisons.

The resulting ms impressed hell out of me, because my biggest question had been whether Shawn could Dawnninate his writing voice. He could and did. The voice read like the lady I’d interviewed. I had to fix some wordiness (which I think was far more Shawn than Dawn, as ‘wordy’ isn’t how I’d describe her), and I took a few firm stands on what content best fit where. If you read the prologue and find yourself yelling “That’s all I get? Damn you! Now I have to read it!” then I guess you can thank me. Or cuss me a little.

It’s a better book than FLTFT (which was quite good), and I wasn’t even close to the main reason for that. The ms came to me more polished than had the former’s edited version. Shawn Inmon is one of the quickest studies I’ve had the pleasure to work with. If I don’t keep upping my game, I’ll become less useful to him throughout his career, so that pushes me to improve. If you liked Feels Like the First Time, it’s a lock that you’ll like Both Sides Now, and you may well like it better still.

I did. I do.

How a crazy busy ‘lancing day looks

Freelancing is like Starfleet at times. Weeks of boredom and maintenance, a day or so of holycrapIhaveatonofstufftodo. Today was one of those days, so let’s walk you through it.

Morning. Finish second and final editing pass on true-life romance manuscript. What? If people hire me to edit their work, it usually gets edited at least twice? Am I that inefficient? No, that’s not the issue. On the first pass, I fix everything that’s obvious, but about halfway through I have spotted some trends, and realize that in the early going, unaddressed instances of those trends exist. I must normalize these so that the overall editing is consistent. In the ideal world, I would make the book sound like the author, only smoother. With good writing, one can do that. When it’s not so good, if it sounded like the author, well, they don’t pay me to maintain mediocrity. This one was pretty good even before I got my inky paws on it. Finish around 2 PM. Refuse to send it off. Want one more quick whirlwind read before I sign off on it as completed work. I hate making any mistakes.

During morning, receive inquiry from fiction author about rates and editing. Exchange e-mails. We agree that author will send me ms, I’ll look it over, I’ll sample edit a few pages and send it back along with a quote. This one will be somewhere between editing and rewriting, so there may be sticker shock, but if you want a great book that’s what it’ll cost. Receive and begin sample edit. I can’t tell what a ms really needs until I sit down and actually edit some of it.

Early afternoon, hear from author of true-life romance ms, who is about as calm and patient waiting for me to send him the finished work as he probably was when his children’s mother was eased onto the obstetric bed to have his first daughter. He is stuck on his blurb, which is his least favorite aspect of readying a book, and randomly mentions that if only someone would just take $x and do it, he’d be happy. With calm irony, I mention how unfortunate it is that he doesn’t happen to know anyone who writes for money. My author is not a fool. I advise him, however, that his price is outrageously high and that I won’t do it for more than $.6x. He complains that it’s well worth $x to him, and wants to pay that. I remain impassive and unmoving; $.6x, not a penny more. Unfortunately, I have no leverage, as in the end I can’t prevent him from writing a check that overpays me, so if that happens, I’ll just have to smile and thank him. However, he still only owes me $.6x for it. Let’s not forget that. In the process I learn that his wife–whose story he is writing as told to him–is enchanted at the many new words I have coined from her name. Encouraged, I start to lean into that and make a real effort to coin them just for fun. I like her story, and I respect the candor of her narrative.

Real life intervenes: wife has just come from home inspection for our soon-to-be own private Idaho. Problems are relatively minor, but here’s a chance to extract from the seller a little of her own overly hard bargaining. Drop everything, attend to review, discussion, and authoring of letter to real estate agent presenting a suggested offer regarding home’s flaws. Make wifely corrections. Day is crazy. Miss Big Brother premiere. “Sorry, dear, buying your dream home is less important than watching a really trashy reality show,” said no happy husband ever. Will watch later online. Someday.

Make grocery run. Welcome break. Buy the usual unhealthy stuff, though at least I’m eating less of it lately.

Whirlwind final review of romance ms, then birth the baby and hand it to author. Pretty sure author drops everything else in his world, except the woman about whom the story tells, to examine ms. I hear nothing back, so he’s probably happy. He’s probably still awake reading it as I write this, after midnight.

Not even close to done for day. Finish sample edit on fiction ms, so as to have eyes-off time to review tomorrow for presentation to author.  Reckon I’m on the right track.

Time for physical therapy. Having discovered that during 2/3 of the exercises I can read a book or magazine, I get in some reading on a travel bio sent me for review by a pleasant Australian DJ. When I’m sent a review copy, my rule is that it’s automatically at the top of the stack until I finish it and post a review. To me, that’s just simple fairness and gratitude to the author. Just about finish it as I am doing resisted hamstring curls–it’s not a thick book, in fact not as thick as I wish it were. By now it’s 11:30 PM, and in some form, I have been at work for twelve hours.

Still not done. A blog entry is way overdue. Regular readers don’t know I was in Idaho for three days with a 4.5 hour drive each way, and unless they’re personal friends, may not be moved by that. They just know nothing’s happening here. This cannot be tolerated, and I am somewhat understandably a bit tired, so I pull up WordPress and begin a blog entry. About what? Remember, there is no writer’s block. You want to write or you don’t. Obviously I want to write at this time, because I refuse not to write. Then decide that a busy literary day might be interesting to concierges, engineers, nurses, electricians, homemakers, lawyers, game wardens, activists, campground managers, cashiers, and all the other folk who take time to read what I write. I put on some rap and get to work.

At half past midnight, my workday is done. Productive day. If this was my every day, I’d have a lot less spare time, but I’d deal.

Good morning, dear reader.

Editing a book on child-raising…me, of all people

My current project is to edit a book on child-raising. This is funny.

Some of you may not know this, but I’m not real good with children. I never wanted to produce any; the day my ex-fiancée told me very seriously that she was pregnant, shortly thereafter revealing that it was a joke, ha ha, something broke inside me and I never trusted her again. I have recently learned that I can enjoy being around good children for about three or four hours. I can endure them for three or four more, after which I need a couple days in a bar. If they are relatives it’s easier, but only to a point. If they are not exceptionally well-behaved, it’s excruciating. In short, perfect kids about whom I authentically care are difficult enough for me. The other billion are rather harder.

I did not ask to be this way, and it’s not something I’m glad for or proud of. It’s very inconvenient to be missing the gene that says kids are inherently cute and funny no matter whether they are attempting to start fires, defecating in their pants, doing something that they have discovered will frustrate adults, or making a crayon drawing of your pet. My life would be much easier if I liked being around them all, and I have tried to like it. It’s like trying to like a food you must force down. It is like telling yourself that discomfort is joy, edginess is relaxation, cardboard is food. I wish them great educations, lots of adventures, good friends, drug avoidance, full safety and very happy lives, with which I’m increasingly willing to intersect as they age toward maturity. If I had to work at a school, I would rather be the night janitor than a teacher. Night janitors perform a key job to help education happen, and by then the kids would be gone, rather than in my classroom torturing me, knowing that I couldn’t actually discipline them and they could get away with making my job hell. People know when they hit a vulnerable spot, and kids learn it early, long before most of them learn that gratuitous cruelty is not a character strength.

When my wife wants to mess with me, she talks about starting a daycare in our house. She thinks it’s funny. Yuk yuk, what a card. Everyone slap your knees.

As for me, I think it’s pretty funny that I am now editing a book on parenting.

The authors made a good choice in the sense that I’m completely unequipped to debate their parenting concepts. Life has taught me that ‘bad mommy’ is this enormous bugaboo for mothers. They’ll come to blows with the one who even implies Bad Mommy. They’ll yowl that they are Good Mommies, even if their junior Satans are out-of-control unbearable (not just to me, but to normal people). They’ll follow obsessive, fearful childcare regimes in order to avoid even a hint of Bad Mommy. Not that they don’t also do much out of pure maternal love, of course; surely so. I’m not saying that Bad Mommy drives all their decisions. I am saying that in many cases, I smell fear as an additional motivator.

Bad Mommy is even a pack behavior. I used to write for a product review site called Epinions. At Epinions, there was a clique I called the Mommy Platoon. The Mommy Platoon could give you 1000 words on a diaper pail without giggling. Sippy cups were serious business. They kept offsite message boards dedicated to gang-rating reviews they deemed to take parenting insufficiently seriously. They said appalling things to people in comments. Singly, they were cravens, but with the company of a cult of mutual reassurance, they found a form of gangster courage. One of their most devastating bullying weapons was Bad Mommy, used without remorse to bring other women to tears, simply for seeing parenting differently. A number of us, with goodwill and empathy, wrote reviews that made light of parenting and its issues and products, honestly hoping to bring the readership (including the Mommy Platoon) a few good laughs. Laugh about parenting? That was as popular with the Mommy Platoon as bomb jokes are with airport security. I think a majority of the mothers at the site despised the Mommy Platoon.  In the end, a key factor driving many of us away from Epinions was this Mommy Platoon, which evidently never learned the lesson mentioned above about gratuitous cruelty. One lesson I took away from that experience was just how dramatically Bad Mommy will influence a mother’s actions and outlook. I feel for them. I’d hate to have that hanging over me.

Bad Mommy is probably a positive thing in at least one sense. Motherhood is exhausting and endless, and it doesn’t have very many breaks. Perhaps when parenting needs doing in spite of how she feels, at times, Bad Mommy is the lash that drives her onward to do what is needed in spite of her being her own person with her own pains, emotions, desires, and so on. I’m glad I don’t know for sure. I wouldn’t want her job. I could in no way do it, and I marvel that she can.

So I’m editing a parenting book. Here’s the thing: my complete ignorance of the subject is an asset to the authors. I can play my position, which is to fix anything that is flawed about the way they have presented their ideas (as opposed to the ideas themselves). Their parenting advice sounds pretty smart to me, and I think it’ll be a great book; my job is to do my all to help that be so. They must find it a blessed relief that I have zero temptation to debate parenting with them, in much the same way as I have zero temptation to debate Sanskrit translation with lifelong Sanskrit scholars or fly-fishing techniques with a lifelong fisherman. They tell me their previous editor (who sounds very Mommy Platoon to me) fired them and said she would pray for them. I’m impressed that this did not dissuade them. When they sent me the sample chapter to see how I’d handle it, they deliberately picked the most controversial one, just to see how I’d react. When I learned that they had done this, they impressed me more.

I like the project. The authors have a very good sense of humor. I can’t imagine them in the Epinions Mommy Platoon. Along the way, I’ll teach them some stuff. You can divide aspiring writers into two categories: those who want to improve, and those who want to be Frosted Flakes with the reader/reviewer/editor as Tony the Tiger. These ladies are serious about it, which means they have a very real chance to get somewhere with the written word.

Here’s to all moms. They have a hard job.

Commentary on “42 Dos and Don’ts from a Dick”, and a dirty little secret

First comes the original e-mail, a rejection letter sent to some 900+ applicants who didn’t get an online writing gig.  Read it within this Gawker article impaling it as “42 dos and don’ts from a dick.”  You can then read the original author’s logic and rebuttal at Salon.

When I look at the anger Shea’s long list of advice has generated, my thoughts include:

  • Wow.  No good deed does go unpunished.
  • These people are not cut out to be writers at all.  They cannot take constructive criticism.  I wouldn’t have hired them either.
  • This is a perfect manifestation of the “I’m So Awesome” generation that got a trophy just for deigning to show up.
  • What part of ‘follow the directions’ is so complicated?

I find this all very revelatory.  It’s helpful to me, because there are a couple of errors mentioned that I can easily see myself making, and would rather not make them.  (Thanks, Shea!)  What it reveals to me is that I haven’t been wrong about the Amazing Ego Based Upon Few Results mentality so common today.  Anything that sounds like negative feedback:  “That’s disrespecting me!”  Respect is earned, sorry.  Advice offered:  “How arrogant to think you know better than me!”  Uh, he does; he’s in a position to hire, and you are not.

Think on it.  They would rather have been ignored than receive help.  They would rather flounder in ignorance and mediocrity than take a bruise, suck it up and grow.  Anything less than “You’re so awesome!” is a boot in the groin.

How did we wind up raising young adults this way? Is this a young adult thing, or a writer thing, or a young adult writer thing? Feel free to educate me.  Because when I get a list of 42 things I might be doing wrong, I want to bless the sender.  That’s 42 things I should never do wrong again.

I promised you a dirty little secret, and you shall have it.  Truth:  I didn’t succeed as a ‘lancer because of busting my butt, nor by being a brilliant writer. That isn’t self-deprecation; I’m not saying I didn’t work hard, nor that I’m untalented.  I succeeded at freelancing because most of my competition took a look at its path ahead, sowed as many mines as possible in its path, concealed them carefully, went away for a while to forget where they were, then just waltzed on through the self-made minefield.  Over, and over, and over.  Most of my competition suicided on the way to the finish line.

I didn’t have to beat them.  They beat themselves.

Finding faults: the fine art of proofreading

My current effort is the final proofreading of a book soon to be published.  This sort of work is no joke, because final proofreading means just that:  the last set of eyes.  If I miss it, it gets printed, and every time I read it, I will have to live with the fact that I missed it.  All I expect is perfection, and I consider full perfection a reasonable expectation of myself, attainable or not.  In writing and editing, that’s elusive and imaginary, but in proofreading, it is simple:  you either saw it and noted it for correction, or you have failed.

I haven’t been given leave to say anything about the book itself, so I cannot do so here, though when it goes gold I will trumpet it, as I am proud to be associated with it on many levels.  Its author is a social historian whose work I admire (and am honored to be asked to nitpick); it covers a topic we mostly would rather not address, but should and must; best of all, it’s in sufficiently good shape it can be proofread.

That works this way.  A work may need heavy editing/rewriting, in which case it is frankly incomplete or incompetently written.  A number of people make good livings doing this, and honest livings, bringing to fruition the autobiography or musings of an otherwise interesting person who cannot write to professional standards.  Moderate to light editing will mean rather less of the above, and intellectual honesty compels my confession that my own ‘finished’ works could benefit from moderate editing.  You get so grooved into your habits that you fail to see where they bother the reader.  “But that’s my style” is a bad rejoinder.  If your style makes the reader unhappy, your style needs adjustment, because without the reader you are soliloquizing.

On the above two groupings, proofreading is not really feasible, as they will change too much.  You can only proofread something that is ready to go to print–before that, it’s wasted energy.  If it needs editing, it’s not ready for proofreading.  This book, with which I am helping, is fully ready for proofreading.  I’m on an Easter egg hunt for odd commas, misspelled names, very rare run-on sentences, mislaid accents on foreign names, loose spaces, italic and case issues, and anything else I encounter that I imagine the author does not want printed as is.

And goddamn it, I am going to find them all.  The layperson might imagine that the author would be shocked, appalled and dismayed that I do.  The professional understands that this is precisely what the author desires.  I change nothing; I merely call attention.  I have no investment in how the author and editors react to what I highlight, for their work is to act upon my work.  They’re capable, seasoned hands.  Once I have noted and pinpointed the issue, action is on them.  They may decide to ignore what I say.  They may tell me to not bother with a given type of issue going forward.  They may make changes.  And I don’t care.

How can I not care? That’s the easiest part, which is that I know my role.  My role is to spot and note, and occasionally to suggest, or explain my reasoning.  Nothing more.  Once one has read a manuscript enough times, and edited it enough times, it becomes the norm to one’s eyes.  Errors that have always been there are no longer seen.  You can’t proof your own stuff.  I am, with no false modesty, the best proofreader I have ever met, and I cannot proof my own stuff.  The value a final proofreader can bring is a combination of fresh eyes and zero emotional investment.  The author has worked on this book for five years, and gods only know how much time his editors have put in.  Quite a bit, to go by the state of the finished product, which has me looking for the fussiest and minutest details.  I can suggest how they might handle an issue, but they know what they meant it to say (or look like).  Once I call it to their attention, it will be handled as they see fit.  I did what was asked of me, and avoided meddling in what was not asked.

It’s not that I don’t care about the end result.  I care about it almost savagely.  I care enough about it that if you send me a chapter in which I think I didn’t find enough problems, I’ll suspect that I lost focus, and do it all over again until I am satisfied I have found all that exists.  If I find nothing, I will do it again.  If I go through it thrice and find zero, then I finally believe my work is done.  Believe you me, I care.  I just know where my job begins and ends, and trust my teammates to take the handoff and hit the hole for paydirt.