Editing Philosophy

An editor should be a positive collaborator in the writing process.


Many people have asked me why I chose the name “Purple Ink Editing” for my business. No, my Clemson experience did not inspire this name, nor did the acronym “PIE” have anything to do with it (although, that could provide some interesting marketing strategies…). And, sure, the name is catchy, but there’s more behind it than that.

As a writing tutor at Penn State, I learned just how much some people fear writing—they are too worried about being criticized and being told that they are “bad” writers that they simply do not put forth any effort to improve their writing. So what—or, more appropriately, who—made them feel this way? A very common answer to this question is a teacher, frequently a teacher wielding a red pen.

At first, these writers put forth their best efforts to write well and to fulfill their teachers’ expectations; however, their attempts prove to be unsuccessful, and they continue to receive bad grades, criticizing (yet unconstructive) comments, and red-covered assignments. This happens in high school, college, grad school, and even in the workplace (who’s to say that your boss isn’t also your “teacher”). However, what are often lacking in these cases are the comments telling these writers what they did right and why their writing—though perhaps not “print” ready—is still good.

If teachers and editors only highlight writers’ negative qualities, then how are said writers going to gain the confidence needed to want to write well, and how will they know what aspects of their writing actually do work. On top of that, many teachers and editors do not provide solutions to these writing problems, so the writers often feel they have nowhere to turn for help.

Eventually, this can turn into a perpetual cycle of poor writing: the writer tries his or her best to write well, the teacher gives only negative feedback but no solutions/assistance, the writer is upset and begins feeling hopeless, the writer does not try to improve his or her writing, the writer again tries to meet the teacher’s expectations but fails because he or she has not taken the necessary steps to succeed, the teacher gives negative feedback again, and so on. It’s no wonder why writers often fear having teachers and editors critique their work; it is often a very negative and demeaning experience for them.

This cycle of negative feedback and writers’ apprehension of teachers’ and editors’ comments are the main basis for the name “Purple Ink Editing.” I want to eradicate red ink from editing entirely to eliminate the apprehension it causes for so many individuals. One thing I have learned over the years is that everyone, from a first-grader just learning to write to a best-selling author, has both positive and negative writing qualities. I believe that the editor’s role is to empower every writer no matter his or her skill level: show them what they do right, teach them how to make their work better, and encourage them to become the best writers they can be. This is the meaning behind my purple ink.