Being a good editor is a strange skill. What I’ve learned after many years working as an editor of academic and technical text, fiction and non-fiction, is that first and foremost it’s not about me.

That’s a harder lesson than it might sound. A copywriter’s job is to meld their own voice with yours, but as an editor, my voice shouldn’t be audible at all. If I’ve done my job right, when you get the edits back you’ll believe you wrote everything yourself: but the flow, the pace, the rhythm and (yes) the attention to detail will all just feel more right. You’ll barely notice unless you’re tracking changes, but what’s been removed to get there are the stumbles, the awkward expressions, the unwieldy sentence structures that force a reader to frown and skip back, the non-sequiturs, the over- (or under-) punctuation, the repetitions. What (if anything) has taken their place are the words you were grasping for but couldn’t quite reach, the subtle connections or elisions that give an argument its flow, the punchy paragraph-finishers or the subtle nuance-enhancers where each feels needed. But most of my editing time isn’t spent adding or removing - it’s spent playing with clauses like a jigsaw to sense how they fit most logically, so that suddenly the big picture shines through. If a bright fifteen-year-old can’t read your writing without tripping up then the order of your sentences needs more work, and no matter whether the person reading is the world expert in your subject, they’ll still be grateful when you make understanding as effortless as possible.

With a background in
academic writing, including a top-five national placing in my English A level followed by a BA in Music from Cambridge, and also in fiction as a writer of short stories, poetry and one novel, I’m extremely sensitive to your fears. Handing your precious work over to someone you’ve never met is a daunting thing. Here’s what I won’t do. I won’t ride roughshod over your personal style and tone. I won’t remove quirks or eccentricities if it’s clear they're intentional: after all, that’s often what readers will enjoy most. If I’m not entirely certain of an edit, I’ll flag it as a margin comment or suggestion rather than hitting delete. And, in the (unlikely) case that I remove something you wanted to retain, I’ll be sending you a copy with changes tracked as well as one with them accepted (for easier reading), so your version can be reinstated at the click of a button.


I’m comfortable editing at all levels and depths. Sometimes I’m asked to simply error-check or proof-read; sometimes to adjust vocabulary and phrasing but not structure or sense; and sometimes all of the above. I’m at my happiest working as hands-on as possible to help improve every aspect of your text, and my clients have often fed back that after workshopping structure and theme together they’ve seen new threads and conclusions emerge in their own work, which is enormously satisfying to hear. But of course, where lighter edits are needed I’m more than happy to adapt.

I’m experienced in editing across
most disciplines. The arts and humanities are where the majority of my personal knowledge lies, but I also spent three years working as a technical editor for Datamonitor focusing on (among other things) the telecommunications market, about which I knew nothing before I began. The principles of editing are always the same: a well-constructed, well-phrased sentence will make immediate sense to its reader, however complex or technical the subject. My experience ranges from transforming a PhD thesis on the nineteenth-century American public lecture circuit into a publication-ready book; coursework edits on topics ranging from Poe and Lawrence to the slave trade and sixties film; technical edits on reports by writers with limited English on a vast array of topics including smartphones and international telecoms regulation; fiction edits on novels for published authors from highbrow to ‘chick lit’; and much more.

I hope you’ll give me the opportunity to chat through how we can make your project incredible together! I love nothing better than a
challenging brief, so please get in touch even if what you have in mind isn't mentioned here.

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© 2020 by Ursula Sagar