What Editors Do

Horace on Editing

If you read anything aloud to Quintilius, he'd say "pray change that, and that". You would say you couldn't do better, though you'd tried two or three times, to no purpose. Then he'd tell you to scratch it out and put the badly turned lines back on the anvil. If you preferred defending your error to amending it, he wasted no more words or trouble on preventing you from loving yourself and your handiwork without competition. A wise and good man will censure flabby lines, reprehend harsh ones, put a black line with a stroke of the pen beside unpolished ones, prune pretentious ornaments, force you to shed light on obscurities, convict you of ambiguity, mark down what must be changed. . . . He won't say, "Why should I offend a friend in trifles?" These trifles lead to serious troubles, if once you are ridiculed and get a bad reception.

— Horace, Ars Poetica (trans. D. A. Russell)

Elisabeth Rosenthal and Ann Godoff

To Ann Godoff, my brilliant editor, who taught me how to turn a series of story ideas into a coherent and useful narrative for readers, as she patiently (and, thankfully, sometimes not so patiently) shepherded this project along. Her advice, though blunt ("I have done away with Part 1"—twenty-five thousand words) was spot-on.

— Elisabeth Rosenthal, An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back (New York: Penguin Press, 2017), acknowledgments