WATCHING MY WORDS by Jane Constantineau May 2020

Jane Constantineau is a ghostwriter, editor, and book reviewer who specializes in biographies and memoirs. For more information, visit

Watching My Words

I work with words every day as a writer, editor, and book reviewer. My job often involves critiquing and changing people’s writing. While some old pros are unfazed by the angry-looking pencil marks of an editor or the cutting criticism of a book reviewer, most writers feel about one inch tall when someone finds fault with their work.

As a writer myself I have worked with many perfectly nice editors who I thought were really mean. This is the nature of getting feedback on our writing—it hurts. When I work as an editor, I never forget that writing makes us vulnerable, exposing a soft, sensitive underbelly that should be handled with care.

I take a piece of writing as seriously as the writer did, reading closely to discover big picture themes, structure, tone, and voice. If I feel an author missed the mark, I figure out why. Often, I can see what someone wanted to achieve and help them do it more effectively.

Also, I find bright spots in every manuscript, no matter how rough. All writers have a unique writing voice. Two people could convey the same information, and it would sound delightfully different. Developing a voice takes time and practice, but I can always find glimpses of it and help writers draw it out.

Finally, I try to convey to the clients I work with that writing is an art and a craft that never stops evolving and improving. Even the most seasoned writers revise their work endlessly, striving for perfection but rarely content that they have achieved it.

It would be a disservice to withhold honest criticism that could help a writer improve. But it would be worse to crush the spirit of someone trying their best. Editors walk that line, knowing that we might bruise egos but hoping that the superficial wound will heal and create a deeper understanding of the writing craft.


Billy’s notes: As classmate Ed Nef’s advisor on his forth-coming new book, which will include one of my articles, Jane advised that I change or delete a few words that may cause misunderstanding – even emotional discomfort. She was most thoughtful and diplomatic. I followed her advise and invited her to share some of her thoughts if she has the time. I thought that her skill and experience can help us all in our Friendship and Relationship Building. She generously provided the article above. Thank you, Jane !