Alysha Love, Executive Editor and Co-Founder of Payette Media House, joins Corey on Screaming in the Cloud to discuss her career journey going from journalism to editing and how she works with Corey on his content. Alysha describes why she feels it’s so important to capture the voice of the person you’re editing, and why editing your content makes a difference to those reading it. Corey and Alysha also explore the differences in editing for something that will be read silently versus something that will be read out loud, as well as the different styles of editing.
Alysha Love is executive editor and co-founder of Payette Media House, an editorial agency serving startups and tech companies. Alysha is the treasurer of ACES: The Society for Editing, the nation's largest editing organization, and trains editors and writers in digital best practices.
She was an editor at CNN and POLITICO during the Obama and Trump administrations. Alysha has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Missouri and a master's in leadership and organizational development from the University of Texas. She's a big fan of the humble ampersand.
Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.
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Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud, I’m Corey Quinn. And one of the, I guess, illusions about what I do is that I sit down at a keyboard periodically, and I just start typing and then, you know, brilliance emerges, and then my work is done. It turns out that this is rarely true, not to deflate my own image overly much. And a big part of how that works comes down to my guest today. Alysha Love is the executive editor at Payette Media House and has been my editor for just about three years now. Alysha, thank you for tolerating me.
Corey: So, I want to start by dispensing with a few illusions that I’m not saying other people have, I’m saying that I have, where I was fortunate enough—or unfortunate as the case may be—to grow up with an English teacher for a mother and understanding how to put together a grammatically correct sentence was not exactly optional in my house, so what possible value could an editor present to me? And one of the things I learned along the way is that there are multiple kinds of editors, as it turns out. What are they and which are you?
Alysha: So yeah, not only is editing a thing, we can look at your sentences, your story, and make it all better and clearer so that it really shines. But there are different types of editors who can do different specific functions. So, at the maybe most nitpicky level, you have proofreaders who are looking at what would be a final page, usually in something like a book, where it needs to look exactly right the way that it’s going up, it needs to be sure that every last little detail is in place. At the next level up, you have copy editors. They’re looking for things like spelling, grammar, punctuation, style, factual accuracy. That’s sort of what you think of usually when you think of somebody who might peer-review a piece for you, or who you might ask to edit something. And then at the next level, you have people who are able to do the copy editing, but in addition to that, they look at the overarching arc of the story or the blog piece, and they’re able to help look for some of those gaps and organize it into something that is clearer and easier to understand.
Corey: Something I’ve always been curious about is that you, previously in another life, were an editor at CNN and then Politico during the Obama and then Trump administrations. Is editing what I do significantly different than editing, you know, journalists?
Alysha: Yes, in a few key ways. One is that when we’re writing news, we always come out and say the most important thing first. It’s what we call the inverted pyramid style, so if you turn a pyramid on its nose and it’s standing on the tip, you have the biggest part of the triangle or the pyramid at the top, and that’s the most important thing that could never get cut, and you say it right out of the gate. I tease my husband a lot because he tends to bury the lede, and that’s what we’re talking about when it’s not the first thing you say.
Corey: Absolutely. And I do that, meanwhile, stylistically as a choice because, you know, don’t put the punch line in the title.
Alysha: Totally. So, that’s a big difference between editing for news and editing you. You also use significantly more voice than we would use in a CNN or Politico article. That’s also a choice. And it’s actually something I have a ton of fun with is emulating your voice as I make edits.
Corey: I found that as we’ve worked together, our comfort with one another has grown significantly over the past few years. At this point, just for folks who are wondering, anytime you have an edit that’s just a reordering or something that clarifies something slightly or is basically low-level stylistic, you don’t track those changes; you just go ahead and apply them because otherwise, I’ll wind up, “Oh, here are 600 changes to make.” It’s like, the article is 2000 words. Exactly how much was done? And so, much of it is white spaces and comma placement and the rest and just strange little things that frankly, are not that important to me past a certain point.
The exception, of course, was always great. First, if you’re making a change, tell me why. I have political opinions about the use of the Oxford comma, for example. I find it lends clarity to things. Fortunately, you and I aligned on that, so it’s a non-issue. But I am curious as far as what do you see that I tend to do the most that I guess either annoys you or you disagree with stylistically or, honestly, is flat-out wrong.
Alysha: So, there’s not much you do that’s flat-out wrong. I will say, like, the instances that I do see something… you’ve told me before that your mom was an English teacher and that these are things that you really pride yourself on being able to do well, so I don’t know how you feel about it, but I’ll usually leave a comment telling you about the change and linking you [laugh] to something that can explain it a little better. Maybe that annoys the shit out of you, or—sorry, can we cuss?
Corey: No, no—oh, you absolutely can, and—
Corey: Because it’s—I was taught by a teacher, I want to say in third grade, that you leave two spaces at the end of every sentence before you begin the next sentence, and I only found out about six or seven years ago that’s not really a thing. It took me a year to break myself of that habit, but I would rather go through that effort than, “Well, I’ve been wrong this long. I may as well double down on it now.” Just seems like that’s not helping anyone.
Alysha: [laugh]. Right. And we all have those things that there was some English teacher somewhere along the way who taught us things that were just wrong. So, my favorite thing about my magazine editing class, when I was in school at the University of Missouri, was that she started from the very, very basics because she said everyone has learned things that are wrong about how we write and how we edit and so we’re just going to learn it all from scratch. And it was really brilliant. It was the best way to learn it all the right way.
Corey: I’m usually gratified when I am trying to figure out what is the proper tense of this particular verb in this particular phrase. And my wife and I will wind up in debates on this constantly because she’s an attorney and also writes a lot for a living. Who knew? And invariably whenever we finally get to an impasse and look it up—because, you know, we do have the sum total of human knowledge in the supercomputer that lives in our pockets—the answer is more often than not, it’s a matter of choice. And both are considered accepted because English is, of course, a language defined by its usage, or one way is British and one is American, or some other aspect where it’s not about wrong; it’s about which is preferred in certain contexts. So, I’ll take it.
Alysha: That’s—yeah, that’s totally accurate. And those are the kinds of choices that I feel like, if I were to change all of those things in your writing, you would not appreciate it because they’re preferences. So, those are the things that even if there’s a style that’s a little different unless what you’ve done is wrong in some sort of, like, widely accepted way, then I’m going to leave it the way you’ve got it.
Corey: One way that I have found that I am both strong and weak, I think, as a writer—and I’m thrilled to be criticized on any of this; please don’t spare my feelings any—is that I write like I speak. When—this is most noticeable on Twitter when I meet people who’ve never met me in person before, a very common refrain is, “Oh, you’re just like your Twitter feed.”
Corey: And partially that’s because I’m sarcastic and irreverent and a class clown who never grew up, but another part of it is because I write like I would put together the sentence. In long-form writing, I feel like that can be something of a setback for me. When I’m making a sentence right now, for example, and talking to you, if I were to write this out as a literal transcript, it will be a long run-on sentence in a bunch of different ways. And it works conversationally, but it does not work that way in long-form writing. So, I feel like I have a bunch of clauses that continue to go on forever when I let myself. [transcriber note: yup]
Alysha: You do. And the thing that you also love to do stick a bunch of semicolons between all of them, which is technically correct, but I do have a whole thing about distracting punctuation, so I will take out many of your semicolons.
Corey: I would like credit though because before you were involved in this, Mike would periodically look at some of my blog posts before they went out and—because I wanted his perspective on, “Am I onto something here or am I a fool,” but then he’ll go back and edit some of the things he sees—which I get. If I see a misspelling in something, I itch until I can fix it, or a grammatical mistake. But at one point, he was constantly onto me about overusing commas. And in one case, he took a bunch out. And then I looked at the tracked changes on this and it’s forever one of my favorite things. You went through next and wound up returning all of the commas that he had removed. It’s, “That’s right.” But you got me on the semicolon thing. I’m trying to reduce usage and have shorter sentences.
Alysha: Yes. And that’s something that’s really good for digital best practices and having a wide and varied audience. You know, with a diverse audience, with audiences that don’t speak English as a first language, it’s helpful to have much shorter sentences. For folks who are consuming content on the internet, in general, it’s easier to skim and get the meaning out of a shorter sentence. However, when we think about your voice, it’s important to leave some of those really long sentences in because we want people to keep thinking and, like, “Oh, yeah. This is a Corey Quinn piece,” when they read your article, whether your name is at the top of it or not.
Corey: What I found is that varying the sentence structure and length also keeps reading from being fatiguing in some cases. And there are times I’ll do things that are, quote-unquote, “Incorrect” to make a point stylistically. Like, normally you wouldn’t put that word in italics and bold, but yeah, for this case, it is so egregious—probably Managed NAT Gateway or something—that I absolutely feel the need to wind up emphasizing the egregiousness of whatever it is I’m opining on that week.
Alysha: Yes. And I think that is also part of what makes editing for you really fun is that there’s a great balance of let’s keep to the rules as much as we can when it makes sense, but let’s be super strategic about how we break them to have better emphasis and to make it clear that this is a Corey Quinn piece.
Corey: One problem that I’ve had, too, is understanding the difference in medium. I mean, most of my engagement with writing, when I was growing up, was books I read enthusiastically. And then I started writing a lot of newsletters and mailing lists and various written fora. I spent entirely too many years on IRC over the course of my life. And there are different rules and all of those circumstances, but never having written a book myself, how differently do you approach the editing process when you’re writing something that is long-form or writing something that is essay length, or writing something that is a book?
Alysha: So, I’m actually working on my first book now as the editor. So, that’s a thing that I’m learning about, learning more about what that process looks like and how it’s different. I think there’s a lot more note-taking as you go along to track, you know, this is the story arc, these are the characters, what’s a first reference and a second reference?
Corey: When you overuse a phrase, it’s easy to figure out if it’s in a 2000-word essay. When you use it more than once, oh, great. Easy to spot. But okay, you write books—generally not in one sitting, I would assume—and you say, all right, that is the eighth time you have used that very particular turn of phrase. Stop it here’s a thesaurus.
Alysha: Totally. I don’t know, maybe this is just a me thing or an editor thing, but do you notice when you hear, like, a very unique word, that’s the thing, if—by the way [laugh], speaking of different, you know, if this weren’t a spoken word podcast, then I would never say very unique; I would edit out ‘very’ ahead of ‘unique’ because unique is unique.
Corey: Exactly. It’s a pet peeve.
Alysha: Totally. But I have very different rules for the way that we speak versus the way that we write. How fleeting are things? So, that gets back to your original question. Something that, you know, if I’m editing something quick, that’s a quick hit, it’s not going to live for very long. If you needed me to edit a tweet, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time on that. I’m going to spend more time on things that have longer legs or that are going to a bigger platform. Books, you spend way more time editing than you would a 2000-word essay.
Corey: I find that I don’t have people edit tweets very often because first, it’s moving too quickly for me to really take something out for opinion. The reason I’d have to do that is, “Is this too close to the edge?” Well, it turns out at this stage, if I have to ask that question, I already know the answer.
Corey: Everything else is going to be more stylistic, like, “Is dogshit one word or two?” And you’re, “Ah, it’s a [unintelligible 00:13:24]. There we go. Excellent.” It’s not the typical kind of problem or question that you would run into.
Alysha: The BuzzFeed Style Guide has been a great resource for questions like dogshit [laugh].
Corey: I didn’t realize they had such a thing and that is absolutely amazing.
Alysha: It is fantastic. Most of the internet things you need to know are there. CNN is where—well, CNN and Politico both—that’s where we were always taking second eyes to look at a tweet before it goes out and you’re doing that in about ten seconds. But we’re looking at factual accuracy. Is there something that is about to be very wrong that we don’t want to embarrass the publication with?
Corey: I’m a prolific writer because I have to be. I have a content schedule that you could charitably call punishing. And that works super well with the way that I view the world, but the counterargument is that getting me to go back and review edits or go back and edit after I’ve written something is sort of like pulling teeth. So, something I found that works for me as a way around this is I record these essays as podcast episodes on the AWS Morning Brief. What that forces me to do is once the edits are in, I get one last read-through as I read it out loud in a normal speaking voice and don’t power my way through it, and I’m forced to pay attention to every word at that point.
And, “Oh, that doesn’t quite make the point that I thought it did.” And you’ve edited them by this point, so it’s not ever going to be something that is, “Oh, that’s a run-on sentence,” or, “Huh, punctuation is probably a good idea.” It’s something that is more abstract than that and often very tied to a domain-specific aspect of what I’ve written about. But I found that to be one of the best last filters for a lot of the stuff.
Alysha: Yeah. That’s a great tactic for catching errors, and… and not even errors, right? But it also comes back to, like, what’s a difference between the way that we’re going to write things and the way that you’re going to read it out loud? I try to edit, keeping in mind that you’re going to be reading these out loud, but then there are always going to be things that are going to sound better a particular way, and the way that we write them is going to be slightly different.
Corey: One thing that I find as well, given that I read a lot more than I write, is that when I’m looking at articles for inclusion in a whole bunch of different places because I’m looking for creative content from the community, it is very hard for me to go ahead and greenlight including something that is poorly written. If I can’t get through the first three sentences without seeing six mistakes in how the sentence is built, I judge the writing for it. It’s you’re talking about a technical topic, but if you can’t even get to a point where the sentence is coherent, then how do I know you don’t have typos littered throughout the code samples you’re about to put up, or whatnot? And I don’t think that that is an entirely fair assessment of mine, but it still feels like nails on a chalkboard, every time I encounter some of it.
Alysha: It’s actually something that’s backed by research. I’m on the board for ACES, the Society for Editing, and we commissioned research about 13 years ago now, so it’s getting updated. But what it showed was that readers can distinguish between edited and unedited content in significant ways. So, it may not be, like, “Oh, I know exactly how to fix this,” or, “I know exactly what’s wrong with this,” but they get the sense that that content is not as reliable if it hasn’t been edited. So, there’s true value in exactly what you just said, in having content that’s edited and the way that it makes people feel about the quality of the content that they’re reading.
Corey: It’s one of those important things—which I’m not trying to shame people, particularly those for whom English is not a first language; you speak more languages than I do. Good for you—but I also will judge corporate blog posts far more harshly for this because it’s no longer just one person. You should—in theory—have the ability to proofread and copy-edit the thing that is going out underneath your masthead. People are expensive. Writers are expensive unless you’re ripping people off, which I don’t advise. At least take the extra few steps to make sure that it doesn’t drive people away for reasons other than the content.
Alysha: Yep, I’m totally with you on that [laugh].
Corey: I find myself having that same negative reaction to typos on your landing page when you describe what you do. There have been security vendors that I won’t touch with a ten-foot pole because they talk about the standards that they follow, but they misspell the word ‘standards’ on the webpage. And in a lot of these areas, details very much matter. One area that I want to get into as well that I think you and I have always been aligned on. Because I’ve worked with a number of editors—all of them great in different ways, I want to be very clear; I’m not trying to shame anyone—but challenges I’ve had from time to time have been editors who come from the marketing world who like to embody what I can only refer to as the bullshit marketing voice.
And I don’t know what exactly the elements of it are, but I know it when I hear it or see it. You can see this on almost every billboard out there, every press release that goes out. If I were to talk to a human in a way that the press release talks about the product and company, it would not go well for me, just because I would come across as incredibly condescending, entirely too self-promotional, and there’s just something about the way that it’s written that feels off-putting so much of my online persona and approaches have come from simply calling out the subtext in an awful lot of unfortunate marketing communications. You’ve never had a problem with that. I have never once looked at something you’ve edited for me and put something in where it’s, “Ooh. That sounds a little bit too market-y.” And again, I consider myself something of a marketer. This is not me disliking marketing; it’s disliking bad marketing. I don’t believe that that’s the sort of thing that just emerges out of nowhere. What’s your history of marketing?
Alysha: So, I did start working in marketing at Intuit QuickBooks a few years ago, back in 2018, when I moved out of journalism. So, I think the way that I approach marketing, and content marketing in particular, is always very journalistic. My bullshit meter really goes off, too, when I read something that’s like, “You have a claim to back that,” or, “Oh, the evidence that you’re using to back that is really thin.” And it just… it’s just icky, right? Like, none of us like to feel like we’re being marketed to in that way.
And you’re right, you would like, you would turn tail and run if somebody started talking to you that way in real life. So yeah, so it’s just sort of a combination of journalistic instinct and like, you know, a lot of times, if you just say something straight, if you just say the truth, it comes out with even more impact than if you tried to fluff it up with marketing speak.
Corey: The thing that I wish companies would figure out is that when you go out and talk about your product and mention the things it’s bad at, it really engenders an awful lot of trust. Because it’s not like you’re going to hide that from the first people to use it, so call it out upfront that this is an area it’s weak in. And that is anathema to some folks where they believe that you can say something is good, something is great, or you can stop talking. But it is unhelpful to the people you’re trying to reach. I’m sure there are reasons for this. I don’t believe for a second that I know better than the entire field of marketing, let’s be clear here. But I know what I want to read what I’m trying to get when I’m presented with new information about a product or a service.
Alysha: I think it just scares the bejesus out of people to think that they are going to publicly admit to things that aren’t great. Yeah, and I don’t know what the idea is after that. Like, that we’re just going to sweep it under the rug and hope nobody notices or try to work on it in the background, and until then, we’ll just talk about, you know, our one huge talking point and tell you that it’s the best, most amazing in the world. It comes off as disingenuous to the rest of us. And that is something that you are not. You are… you’re definitely the antithesis of that. You’re very trusting because you call out all of the things that aren’t quite right in a very honest way.
Corey: And people love it until it’s their turn to the hot seat, I think. That tends to, “Well, hang on, my product is perfect.” I assure you it’s not but that’s okay.
Alysha: To being fair, you’re also very good at calling out what others do great, and maybe in a way that you don’t always get credit for, but—
Corey: Well, no, I’ve done experiments on this. When I am unflinchingly positive about some aspect of what a cloud provider or other vendor has done or a feature that I really like, it gets almost no notice. But when I say, “Oh, and this part is crap,” that’s the part that blows up and goes around the internet a bunch of times. And I think that’s human nature. I don’t know if, as an editor, you have a way to fix human nature, but if you do, I’m very interested to learn it.
Alysha: [laugh]. No, we just all love to bitch and to talk about our pain points, and when somebody says it and all you can say is, “Yes, plus one million,” then it’s going to get a lot of play.
Corey: One aspect of what you do did scare me initially when we first started working together, and that was, you do a few things: you write as well—which that’s not scary. I would expect someone who can edit would also know how to write. That does make sense. But you also do some SEO-facing work. And that in many ways feels like it is modern-day witch doctor-y because my approach to SEO has always been naive but also effective.
I write compelling, original content that people like and as a result, link against or refer to. And I find the rest of it really takes care of itself. I haven’t spent deep effort or large amounts of brain sweat figuring out how to appear at the top of Google search results for various terms.
Alysha: Yeah. And one of the things I was tasked with as soon as I came in, was, “Please write an SEO description for each of Corey’s pieces and make sure that we’re writing for digital best practices, including SEO.”
Corey: And I’ve read those descriptions and I’ve never had a problem with any of them because it’s not something that is aligned with… anything that I hate. So, good for you on that. It’s an active description using very direct, to-the-point phrasing about what it is I’m talking about. And yeah, that is, ideally what SEO should be. It’s about, this is what this is, but you shouldn’t have to read through a thousand meandering words while he circles the point to death like some sort of persistence hunter. I get it.
Alysha: Totally. We’re going to be direct and to the point, we’re going to use the key nouns, but we’re not going to be gross about it. And we’re definitely not going to jump on the latest trend because honestly, Google’s always looking to get ahead of what all of the SEO magicians are trying to magic up.
Corey: I get so many emails in the course of a week for people asking to contribute articles to my blog. Which again, we do have a guest author program, but that’s one of those, yeah, if that happens, we’re paying you and then throwing an editor—read as you—to whoever it is that’s contributing that so it comes out something that we’re thrilled to have up there. But money flows one direction in that and it’s from us to the guest author. Instead there, “Oh, we’re going to provide high-quality content,” or they’ll link to something on the site, usually a newsletter back issue, and say, “Hey, include our link to this because it’s relevant,” and it’s clearly for SEO juice. And first, I’m sure Google and the other search engines would just love if I suddenly have a bunch of crappy links to low-quality sites. But further, it doesn’t serve the audience in any meaningful way, and… it just irks me.
Alysha: And when you start playing that game, you get into the middle of all of that the link-swapping, and trying to up their SEO juice, and it is wild the amount of money that people will offer to pay for a link on a reputable site. It’s super valuable. So, the way that I approach linking in your pieces is exactly the same way that I did it in news, which is, where do we need to show our sources, where will people want to verify information? Let’s just go ahead and give them that link. And that’s about it. Like, what do people need to know?
Corey: I always worry, on some level, that I’m thinking about this all wrong. But if I’m being snarky and sarcastic with all of the SEO people emailing me who then try to offer me SEO services, it’s frankly, if that’s what I’m looking for, shouldn’t I just Google ‘SEO’ and pick whoever’s at the top of the list? Because they clearly get it in one.
Corey: It turns out, for some reason, they don’t really have a good rejoinder to that when you ask them directly.
Alysha: [laugh]. I love that. And might I mention, when I do search for topics that I know you guys have articles on, I won’t necessarily include The Duckbill Group, but you do show up because you are a reputable and authoritative source who does not play the SEO game.
Corey: I do have one more question that lies down this path that I’m actually deeply curious about, and I’ve always found it to be something that is incredibly helpful for my purposes. But your background is in journalism and writing and editing. It is not—for some unknown reason—the world of cloud. Almost like you want to be happy or something.
Corey: How approachable or unapproachable is my writing to someone who does not live in the space the way I do?
Alysha: Oh, that’s a really interesting question. So, I’m married to somebody who spent ten years, just about, working specifically around AWS, in the—
Corey: It took that long for them to stop the billing. I get it.
Alysha: [laugh]. And my brother-in-law is also a software engineer. So, I have witnessed enough conversations between the two of them that I had a decent idea of what I was getting into. And those two are my resources when I have stupid questions that I don’t want to ask you [laugh] in a Google Doc comment. So, I go to them, I get the lowdown, I do a little research sometimes, but by and large, we’re talking about bigger concepts, and I think sometimes it might even help that I’m not in the weeds on some of the details of things that you talk about because it helps me see patterns that I’m a little—I can make some connections that maybe you’re not making in the middle of the weeds.
Corey: It’s always tricky to figure out where to level-set what I’m talking about. I don’t want to turn every article to have the first 18 pages of it be a primer on what Cloud computing is. I have to assume, at least on some level, people have a baseline level of understanding. But there are times I go too far in the other direction where I assume that, “Oh, well, I used to be a software engineer, so I’m going to write as if everyone reading is.”
In fact, the audience is not overwhelmingly populated by purely software engineers. There’s a lot of systems folk, there’s a lot of managers at a variety of different levels, ranging from line management to executive, and it really takes all kinds. I’m always surprised when people reach out and mention they’ve been reading for a while, and then they describe what they do for a day job and it’s nothing I would have ever considered. It would not have occurred to me early on that people who spent their entire life in the finance department would find most of what I talk about that isn’t cost related to be interesting. But they assure me they do. Okay.
Alysha: That makes sense because it gives them insight into what the other half of the business is doing.
Corey: On some level, what I’ve found is you have to pick—and it can vary; it can honestly vary even within a piece, but at every given point, I feel like you have to have someone in mind that you’re writing for because otherwise you’re trying to write for everyone and in so doing, you write something that’s valuable to no one.
Alysha: Do you remember how much I hammered on you about who your audience was at the beginning of every single article when I first started editing?
Corey: Oh, yes. That’s what shaped the ideas. I mean, honestly, if you were telling me the same thing, now that you were two-and-a-half years ago, I’d wonder if—in your case—if I was even reading the notes that you put into these things. Editors make your writing better, but they also longer-term make you a better writer, is my firm belief.
Alysha: Oh, that’s lovely.
Corey: I’m assuming that the mistakes I make are at least more interesting now as opposed to some of the ones that we had long conversations about. I hope.
Alysha: Totally. It is interesting every time.
Corey: So, I have to ask, given as someone who is a big believer in writing, and because it’s a way of expressing myself and giving myself a platform that doesn’t require me to be in the same room as a bunch of other people or them to be willing to fire up a podcast and listen to me or watch a video, they can access it anywhere they are at any given point in time, I love the writing process, but the editing process is challenging for me. You have—seem to be on the other side of that where you are much happier editing than you are writing. At least that’s my perception of you and your background. If that is accurate, how do you think about this stuff because it’s foreign to me?
Alysha: That’s really funny. So, I actually started out thinking that I wanted—well, I wanted to work with words, and I thought that the way that you could do that was by writing, and specifically reporting. So, that was the track I went down. And it actually wasn’t until my first full-time job out of college—I was working as a copy editor at Politico—that I realized that I could wake up and edit every single day. That was what I had the energy for.
And when I say wake up and edit, I mean, it was 4 a.m. and we were editing the newsletters that had to go out by 6 a.m. so quite literally, it was the thing I could wake up and do. And I think what I really love about it is taking something that’s already good, that’s already great in a lot of instances, and making it better, so it’s just that little bit more clear, more understandable, that your message is getting across in a way that still feels authentic to you. Because I can tell you one of my least favorite things as a writer was having someone come through and edit and I could tell you every single spot that that editor had touched. And it sort of… it burned. It just didn’t feel quite right.
Corey: Suddenly the voice switches, like effectively, you have someone whose voice sounds like you, for example, and then for half a sentence, it suddenly sounds like James Earl Jones is delivering it, and then it goes back to your voice. It’s hmm.
Alysha: Totally. So, with my experience of editing as a writer, my goal is to make that as seamless as possible. So, I want to show you the changes that you’re going to be most interested in and that I think you might want to learn from. And the changes that I do make, I want them to sound just like you.
Corey: Honestly, because there’s usually a week or two in time that happens between me writing a draft or something, and then going back, when you’ve just automatically made some of the quick rewrites on the fly, unless I go looking, I never realize which parts you’ve touched or not. And I’m the one that wrote it. So, I guess, honestly, you’re in a terrific position to put words in my mouth if you want to. Have fun. But that is, to me, the mark of an editor who gets it.
I just find it scary, on some level, to the idea, from my perspective, of fading into the background. I always lived in fear of not having my name front and center and being in the spotlight, for good or bad, just because it’s that’s who I am. That’s what I bias for.
Alysha: That’s really interesting. Totally makes sense because you are very front and center. When I was working at Reuters in Brussels, one of the things I think is really cool that they do is they put their editors’ byline at the bottom of articles, so the editors do get a hat-tip of recognition. But I think as somebody who’s a little bit of a helper, I just get a lot of enjoyment out of making other people’s stuff better.
Corey: I can certainly say that you’ve been a smashing success from my perspective, although I’m sure now you’re going to be inundated with people who are urging you to, “Okay, now make what he says less bullshit or at least something that I can agree with.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way most of the time.
Corey: Though you are getting very proficient at sanding off some of the more colorful metaphors. Thank you for that.
Alysha: [laugh]. Anytime. I got to keep my [unintelligible 00:33:28], too.
Corey: If people want to learn more, where’s the best place for them to find you, and—take this as a personal recommendation—hire you to edit their stuff, so I don’t have to claw my eyes out as much when I read their things?
Corey: And we will, of course, put a link to that in the [show notes 00:33:50]. Thank you so much for taking the time to go through something different with me in a stranger way than we normally wind up communicating, which is via tracking changes.
Alysha: [laugh]. I love it. It’s nice to see your face.
Corey: It really is. I have a face for radio though, so it’s only for so long. Alysha Love, Executive Editor at Payette Media House. I’m Cloud Economist Corey Quinn and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you’ve hated this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, along with an angry, insulting comment that I will absolutely not be reading because you’ve [BLEEP]-ed the subject-verb agreement in your first sentence.
Corey: If your AWS bill keeps rising and your blood pressure is doing the same, then you need The Duckbill Group. We help companies fix their AWS bill by making it smaller and less horrifying. The Duckbill Group works for you, not AWS. We tailor recommendations to your business and we get to the point. Visit duckbillgroup.com
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