Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Derek Owens

Second Advisor

Jennifer Travis

Third Advisor

Steven Alvarez


Editing is usually perceived in the pejorative within in the literature of composition studies generally, and specifically in writing center studies. Regardless if the Writing Center serves mostly undergraduates or graduates, the word “edit” has largely evolved to a narrow definition of copyediting or textual cleanup done by the author at the end of the writing process. Inversely, in trade publishing, editors and agents work with writers at multiple stages of production, providing editorial feedback in the form of reader’s reports and letters. Editing is a rich, intellectual skill of critically engaging with another’s text. What are the implications of differing literacies of editing for two fields dedicated to writing production?

This dissertation examines the editorial practices of three leading 20th century editors: Maxwell Perkins, Katharine White, and Ursula Nordstrom. The selected editors worked in three different publishing fields, with three different styles. All were practitioners of editorial literacy supporting some of America’s greatest literary works.

This project demonstrates a lack of understanding of the ways professional writing is editorially supported. Editor and author are two distinct contributors to writing, each with a different objective, each learning from the process. Effective editing is prescriptive, additive critique that fosters collaborative relationships between vested parties. Editing is more than mechanical cleanup, performed in the final steps of writing. This dissertation offers suggestions for the writing classroom, where editing might be taught as peer review. Positive editorial practices in the writing center might include consultants reading and responding to each other’s work as a matter of practice.