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The Beginning Writer Magazine

Reading The Editor


How To "Read" An Editor

By Richard L. Servis Jr.


When you're planning to submit a query or manuscript to a particular magazine, it's always a good idea to get a recent copy or two to study for "style" and "flow" among other things.  Another thing you can study is the editor!


Is your potential editor an Egotist?  Elitist?  Modern?  Old-fashioned?  A Perfectionist? 

I make a practice of clipping out a recent masthead and table of contents from prospective magazine markets.  I clip out the "editors page" too, if there is one.  Here's where the editor shows his/her personality--and sometimes a photo.  Don't always assume the young-looking editor is young.  Some editors have used the same photo for 20 years.


Does the editor make a point of "genderless writing?"  Does s/he use contractions like "I'll or "we'll instead of "I will" or "we will"?   Do sentences begin with "and," "but," or "or?"  Some editors from the "old school" don't like contractions.  Some never begin sentences with-- and, but, or, although, because or however.  Some even abhor the word "that" anywhere in the text!  A few from the old-school don't like the word, "the."

Those sticklers feel that "the" should be referred to as what it is.  They may view the same about the word "that"-- as what is "that"?  (Or, call it what it is).

Is all this an exaggeration?  You'd be surprised! 

Rule of thumb-- whatever style the editor uses in the Editor's Page, you can probably use too.


In the back of your mind, try to outguess whether your potential editor is-- fresh out of journalism school and never edited any professional work, or is 75 years old and still clings onto yesteryear's criteria, or is it a new publication whereby the editor/owner doesn't yet have a grasp on publishing traditions.  There's also the "bad hair day" syndrome where an editor doesn't like anything!

On a good day, you may find an ideal editor who is open-minded, curious, understanding, and perhaps even helpful.  Those editors help keep writers-- writing!


You might also study the editor's remarks when perusing the Writers Market directory. and watch for "Never send me an e-mail." "Absolutely no phone calls."  Manuscripts without return postage will be discarded, unread."  Tactless editors are always difficult to work with! 

On the other extreme..................

Here's a notation in Writer's Market [Directory] by the editor of City Cycle Motorcycle News shown under "Tips": "Ride a motorcycle and be able to construct a readable sentence!"  {Publisher/Editor Mark Kalan shouldn't be too hard to please!).


Here's an editor's page example from Endless Vacation Magazine  (Jul/Aug'93)

The editor rambled on about "Why I Write."  He used the word "I", 31 times, and a combination of "me," "my," and "myself", 18 times.  Remember-- this is only one page!

It tells you something about the editor's personality.


Here's a link picked at random of an editor's page. It is from Industry Week Magazine.

The editor-in-chief, Patricia Panchak is obviously an excellent writer herself, never-the-less gives us a good example of what might be acceptable in offering your manuscript to the magazine.  Her article was titled: "The Shape of Manufacturing to Come."


First, she has no qualms about long sentences.  Four sentences examined were as follows; 65 words with one dash; 52 words with two dashes; 59 words with no dashes; and 83 words with only commas.  (An old-old yardstick suggested a maximum of 27 words per paragraph).

Ms. Panchak did use contractions-- namely, "won't," "you're," "it's," "let's," and "we've."

Ms. Panchak is heavy on the use of commas, (and well-placed), contrary to many mainstream editors.

I was taught in elementary school to always use a comma before the words "and" "but" and "or."    Where we use dashes to introduce a new thought or accent a pause, we were taught to use semi-colons.  My editor friend once told me, "Please don't give me any more semi-colons.  I have a whole drawer full of them in my desk that I've been saving for 20 years--and still haven't found a use for them."


You could probably get by using figures of speech, or catch phrases that seem to fit a sentence.  Here are two she used in her article: "One size fits all," and "What remains to be seen."

Another slightly-noticed point is her personal hyphenated words, such as my use of "slightly-noticed."   You might be able to do likewise. 

The article in Industry Week Magazine was found at:


It would seem that the more you feel you "know" about the editor, the better your chances for consideration of your query letter or manuscript.


Study the magazine!  But while you're at it, study the editor too!





 Richard L. “Dick” Servis Jr. is the Publisher/Editor of The Beginning Writer Magazine. His personal website is at: