Editor for Life: Marie-Lynn Hammond, Freelance Editor and Proofreader

Interview conducted by Adrineh Der-Boghossian.

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 Five Ws: 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.

Photo of Marie-Lynn Hammond with grey cat perched on her shoulders.

Please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (and where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.

I’ve been an editor for about 25 years, doing primarily copy editing and line editing, and proofreading books, magazines, and reports for a wide range of clients. As trade publishers disappeared, I found myself copy editing more self-published books and often doing substantive work on them as well. I also have a whole other parallel career as a singer-songwriter, playwright, and writer, and I did a five-year stint as a CBC radio host. I started all my careers in Toronto, but in 2005, I moved to a small town and now live in an even smaller town: Cobourg, Ontario. With cats, of course.

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

I think I’d be too intimidated to edit a famous author. I didn’t know Esi Edugyan was going to become a famous author when I copy edited her first Giller-Prize winner, Half-Blood Blues—although I recognized the quality of the writing—or I might have turned down the job!

What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?

I’m rather fond of the interrobang, although the actual character (‽) hasn’t caught on. I love that it expresses both a question and excitement. I’m not sure that I’d use the other form (?!) in more formal contexts, but it’s useful on social media. As for a favourite word, I have several. Serendipity, shimmer, darkling, and luminescent are splendid, don’t you think?!

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

In a mythical tropical country by a turquoise ocean where it never snows, where people are kind to animals and one another, and where language is so revered that everyone knows what dangling modifiers are. (Obviously, my clients would be mostly from other countries where language is not revered and dangling modifiers run rampant.) 

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

Yes, when I was trying to make a full-time living in the performing arts in a country where it snows somewhere pretty much every month of the year. Oh wait—you meant my editing career choice. Nope, never questioned it. See below.

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?

See above. After I’d spent over two decades in music and theatre, editing tapped me on the shoulder and murmured, “You have an English degree and love words. You spot typos in newspapers. You could take some editing courses, work from home, and never again have to drive 250 kilometres through a snowstorm in early May to play to the 15 people able to dig themselves out and make it to the folk club.”

And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?

Respect the author’s voice, even if it’s not to your taste. Also, be kind to animals and the planet—and to clients.


Adrineh Der-Boghossian is the editor-in-chief of BoldFace.

This article was copy edited by Michael Iaboni.

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