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February 4, 2008 by 8junebugs

In interviewing for my replacement and a more junior version of my old job, it’s been interesting to hear some answers and realize that I’m listening for them to say what I would say. Right or wrong, there’s a lot you can tell about someone from what he or she claims as his or her favorite job, article, website, class, or author. Not that we ask for these, exactly, but you can tell that someone whose eyes light up when talking about language use will probably be the kind of editor you want to have around. Someone who cares about the people in the story. Someone who will write a style guide and be the first to break the rules in it.

Someone who sneers at secretarial work or thinks badly of writers who would be the first to admit they’re not writers but are doing the best they can? Not so much.

So, what are the intangibles that qualify me to be in the kinds of positions I’ve held? How would I answer some of the questions we ask?

  • I’ve been writing since I was 5. I’ve been helping others with their writing since I was about 10. I taught my brother and one of my cousins to read and write.
  • In elementary school, I had a teacher who had us race to look up words in the dictionary. I won every single time.
  • I can take a paragraph containing 400+ words and cut it 170-ish without losing any of the meaning. I’m verbose, but I’m also really good at condensing stuff.
  • I’ve been published here and there. I like some of the less-published stuff better.
  • My dream job, even now, is probably still White House Press Secretary. For a president I believe in, of course. I’m excellent at spin.
  • I am addicted to reading. Words have personalities to me. (Numbers do, too, and the odd ones are just mean.) Diction defines people to me — you are what you eat…and also the words you choose to use.
  • A trained reporter can write in pretty much any format. That’s why we keep looking for journalism backgrounds in the hiring process — if you can write a front-page story, a classified ad, and an obituary, you can write for publications and for the web.

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