This post was originally published on the Copyediting blog in 2014.
Samantha Enslen has been working in the publishing and editing world for nearly 20 years. She currently runs Dragonfly Editorial, an agency that provides copywriting and editing for scientific, medical, technical, and corporate materials.
How did you get into editing, Sam?
In the early 1990s, I was working at a coffee shop in Washington DC, and one of my customers owned a small publishing house nearby. I started interning for him and quickly realized that I had a knack for copyediting. I started taking editing classes from the amazing instructors at EEI in Virginia (now The Business University) and soon after secured my first freelance job. The rest, as they say, is history.
What do you find satisfying about running a writing and editing agency?
I think I was a matchmaker in a previous life. I love getting frantic, highly specific requests from customers—do you have a medical writer who knows diabetes who can work on a project due tomorrow?—and pairing them with a writer who’s the perfect fit.
What resource do you use practically every day?
My all-time favorite resource is Garner’s Modern American Usage. I think Bryan Garner’s brain and mine are wired alike. Whenever I have a random usage question (does “a majority of” take a singular or plural verb?) I can flip open Garner’s and immediately find the answer.
What advice would you give editors interested in improving their craft?
Go old-school and complete editing workbooks by hand. There’s nothing more informative—and humbling—than comparing your marks to an answer key. I recommend The Copyeditor’s Handbook and old copies of Substance & Style and Mark My Words.
What is the most memorable project you’ve worked on?
One of my favorite projects was editing the Spooky series of books for Globe Pequot Press. Building the word lists was the best. Sample entries: the Devil; Lucifer; the Evil One; but a devil, a demon.
Word nerd, grammar police, guru, ninja, maven—if you had to pick such a moniker (to embroider on your cape, engrave on your keys to the city, etc.), what would it be and why?
How about “Lady Samantha, Patron Saint of Preventing Embarrassing Errors”?
If you weren’t editing, writing, and running a business, what would you like to try as a career?
I’d love to be an executive assistant. I think it would be such a relief to obsess over the details of someone else’s life instead of my own.