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Editor for Life: Sara Scharf, freelance editor

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.

Sara Scharf

Sara, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

I’ve been editing for pay for more than 20 years. My specialty is academic editing, especially for clients in the sciences, engineering, and medicine. I have many interests and have switched fields repeatedly, completing a PhD in the history and philosophy of science and technology, working as a medical market analyst, and then, as a postdoctoral fellow in engineering, studying how to increase innovation in extremely multicultural environments. I thrive on variety and intellectual engagement, which is probably why substantive editing, stylistic editing, and fact-checking are my favourite editing tasks. Of course, I copy edit, too, but I nearly lost my mind earlier this week putting more than 700 references into APA format on a tight schedule.

Journal articles, grant applications, promotion packages, and PhD dissertations are my bread and butter. While I help my clients further their careers, they give me the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge research in a wide range of disciplines, from paleontology to polymer chemistry to sociology to electrical engineering. Since many of my clients are not native speakers of English, I often learn about their languages and cultures, too. They also inspire me to learn more about my own language and culture when I explain the origins of English idioms and the subtle differences among expressions. I love how some of the questions they ask really make me think. For instance, one client asked me to explain how possible, probable, potential, and putative are different from each other.

Helping people from a variety of backgrounds express themselves clearly and appropriately in contexts requiring vastly different tones draws on my creativity and is very rewarding. (more…)

The Nitpicker’s Nook: May’s linguistic links roundup

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts from around the Web. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

The Nitpicker's NookBy Emily Chau

  • Another reason to go to the EAC Conference: write off the conference costs! Adrienne Montgomerie, a long-time EAC member, shares her tax tips with freelancers in this article. (
  • Science editors alert! The Plants of Canada Database is an updated source of information about natural, vascular plants in Canada. Check out this quick and accessible tool for more information on both native and introduced species in the Canadian flora. (Canadian Food Inspection Agency)
  • Check out this cool presentation from Ryan O’Connor (a.k.a. Chelsea Tech Guy), who has provided a free recording of his presentation, “Get Your Head in the Cloud: Modern Tools for Modern Editors” from our EAC colleagues out in the National Capital Region during April’s speaker night in Ottawa. (EAC-NCR Bulletin)
  • Since some of our editors are also translators, here’s a cheat sheet on Twitter hashtags for that line of work. (Lingoio)
  • If someone sternly insists that it’s wrong to use a certain word a certain way, is it pickiness or precision? An assistant editor in London shares his thoughts with us on his blog. (The Stroppy Editor)