Writing and Editing

A placard that says Write without fear. Edit without mercy.

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash


My specialty is writing about medicine, public health, and public policy while avoiding the corporate jargon, management-speak, and bureaucratic buzzwords that repel nonspecialists. “Developing impactful strategies and leveraging our core competencies prior to developing a comprehensive, holistic strategic plan in order to institute the promotion of health and well-being among persons with disabilities and other key stakeholders going forward”? Give me a break. If it sounds like a line from Weird Al’s “Mission Statement,” it shouldn’t appear in writing except as a joke.

I’ve written about complex topics in plain language for different groups of readers, including children and adolescents, nonnative speakers of English, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and curious laypeople who want to understand public health and social policy. Some of these topics include disability law, birth outcomes among parents with disabilities, the socioeconomic status of parents with disabilities, the effects of COVID-19 on people receiving home- and community-based services, inclusive education, racial justice, gender identity and expression, and more.


I believe in good English, just as I believe in good food, good friends, good weather, and good government—and you should, too. Are you wondering whether self-advocacy has a hyphen? (Yes.) Is it OK to use the singular they? (It should be.) Should you use the Oxford comma? (That’s debatable, but I use it here.) Want to use the right word for the right occasion—or the proper word for the proper time? If so, I’m probably the person you’re looking for.

I’ve read about a hundred books on usage and style, and I rely on the best: Garner’s Modern English Usage, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, the AP Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style, and the first two editions of Fowler’s Modern English Usage. (There are some other books I like, too: I’m particularly fond of Dreyer’s English.) Over the past twenty-four years, I’ve worked as a freelance and in-house copyeditor and developmental editor for a variety of people and organizations, including the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy at Brandeis University, where I produced the official style guide. As an editor, I help authors—whether journalistic, technical, academic, or literary—look and sound their best while retaining their voice and style. I can use either British or American English.

I don’t just edit, though: I’m also skilled at vetting other editors’ knowledge of Standard English usage. If your editor doesn’t know that all right is two separate words, they don’t know Standard English and shouldn’t be editing anything more consequential than a middle-school newspaper. (And if they refuse to use the standard spelling, they shouldn’t be editing at all.) If your editor says or writes anyways, that’s a disqualification. Errors like this separate the novice from the professional—and professional publications deserve editors who know and use Standard English. Don’t settle for less. Want to work with me? Email me at unexpectedly AT me.com.

© Finn Gardiner 2022. All rights reserved unless otherwise specified.