Emmy Duddles Freelance Editor Spotlight

Emmy Duddles: Freelance Editor Spotlight

nDash’s Managing Editor, Jenn Greenleaf, talks to Emmy Duddles about her background as a freelance editor and much more!

Background: The Highlights

Emmy is a freelance copyeditor with over seven years of experience. Her background in English and writing experience honed at The Christian and Missionary Alliance make her a valuable asset for anyone looking to refine their writing. She tackles projects from manuscripts to emails, and her strong storytelling abilities shine through her editing.

In 2020, Emmy became the managing editor of their award-winning magazine, showcasing her strategic planning and leadership skills. With her combined talents, Emmy elevates written work to new heights.

nDash’s Discussion with Emmy Duddles

Jenn: Can you share how your background in English and your education at Colorado Christian University influenced your career path?

Emmy: My degree at CCU was literature-heavy. I read such a wide variety of authors–from Native American accounts of colonization to Russian authors hiding their work in drawers during the Bolshevik Revolution to women wrestling with mental health issues that were being invalidated by every doctor they saw.

Reading all of these accounts made me passionate about everyone having the chance to share their unique stories with the world. That passion is what drives me to want to help others clarify their thoughts and experiences through editing their articles, books, or even websites.

Jenn: What initially drew you to the field of editing and writing, particularly in a religious context with The Christian and Missionary Alliance?

Emmy: My job with The Christian and Missionary Alliance was a glorious fluke in many ways. When I chose to change my major to English right before my sophomore year of college, my mom remembered that one of our church friends was the editor of a Christian magazine and suggested that I ask for an internship.

I had no intention of working for a magazine–the fast-paced nature of the publishing world was intimidating. However, I got the courage to ask for that internship and thrived in their office over the summer. I fell in love with their team and the work they were doing. Outside of the editing we did for various in-house resources, we were largely getting to share stories of the life transformation people had received through our various ministries around the world.

It was thrilling to spend every day constantly hearing about how people’s lives were being changed through medical clinics, schools, disaster relief efforts, and more. When the editor called me a year later to offer me a job, I couldn’t say no.

Jenn: Reflecting on your time as a staff writer and editor, what were some of the most rewarding projects you worked on?

Emmy: Since my office was working on a tight budget, they were usually unable to send more than a skeleton crew on trips to capture videos. However, a story was often important enough to send a writer along with the videographers. I went on one of those trips while I was a staff writer to Wisconsin in the dead of winter. Though it wasn’t exactly an exciting destination like some of their other trips, it was one of the most meaningful weeks of my life.

We talked to numerous people who had been trapped by drug addiction, homelessness, and self-hatred but had received hope because of the love and care they had found at a church in the area. There were so many stories to share that I ended up writing multiple articles–one for the magazine and a couple for the website.

I received first place at the Evangelical Press Association awards for the magazine article I wrote about that trip the following year. However, the impact those people made on my life was even more meaningful than the professional accomplishment. Their stories still rattle around in my head all the time.

Jenn: How did you navigate the transition from staff writer and editor to managing editor at Alliance Life magazine, and what new challenges did this role present?

Emmy: My transition into the managing editor role was more natural than I expected. I had developed quite a few administrative skills during my work there, so orchestrating issues of the magazine came fairly quickly and easily to me. Also, receiving each issue of the magazine once I had finished was so rewarding because it made my work tangible.

Even still, it did present quite a few challenges. Decision fatigue is real, so my home life became a bit more chaotic because I was worn out from making decisions for the magazine all day. I had to become a bit more regimented and routine-oriented in the way I lived my life so that I could cut down on how many decisions I had to make at home.

There was also a lot more collaboration regarding the magazine than there had been in my original position, which had good and bad points. Collaborating with people is such a joy sometimes, but when you’re waiting on someone else to decide so that you can move forward on a time-sensitive piece, it becomes overwhelming. Overall, I loved stepping into new responsibilities and using my creativity more often in my job.

Jenn: As managing editor, you were responsible for setting a thematic goal for each issue. How did you approach this task, and how did it shape the magazine’s content?

Emmy: Deciding on a theme for each issue was my favorite part of my job, while also being one of the most frustrating parts. It was like solving a puzzle because I was balancing the themes my bosses wanted to focus on for the year with the themes found in the content and stories I was gathering. This often meant prioritizing certain stories over others, which meant that some articles ended up in the magazine a few days after we found them.

Others spent months or years sitting in the queue, waiting for the right moment. It was frustrating to tell the same author three or four times that we were bumping their piece again, but it often served their article better to be published with other content with the same message.

The Rest of nDash’s Conversation With Emmy

Emmy Duddles

Emmy’s expertise spans editing donor appeals and emails to manuals and book projects. This breadth of experience makes her the go-to expert for anyone looking to polish their written content, whether a book, an email campaign, or anything in between.

Jenn: In your freelance career, you’ve highlighted your proficiency with the Chicago Manual of Style, among other skills. How important is understanding different style guides in your line of work, and how do you adapt to each?

Emmy: I could talk about the importance of understanding style guides all day. In college, my professors talked about style guides only in reference to formatting bibliographies. It wasn’t until I started my job with The Alliance that I discovered each style guide also has a completely different set of rules when it comes to grammar. Grammar seemed like mathematics to me, where one equation always has the same answer. But grammar is much more fluid than that. Every style guide has different priorities that drive how they choose to format their sentences.

For example, the Chicago Style has a very laissez-faire attitude toward commas, whereas styles like AP or MLA are much more strict. Because most of my career was spent using Chicago, I must be extra vigilant about commas when editing for a client in AP. Adapting to new style guides is not easy at first; it’s like singing a familiar song with a different rhythm. Once you get the feeling for the sentence flow of a new style, it becomes more natural to slip into.

Jenn: What has been the most challenging project you’ve tackled as a freelance proofreader, copyeditor, and writer, and how did you overcome those challenges?

Emmy: Because of my extensive background with the Chicago Manual of Style, my first project with a client who was using AP style was my most challenging project to date. It took a lot of concentration and relearning for me to finish that project. When your eye is trained to catch problems that are no longer problems and is not trained to catch problems that were not considered problems before, it gets tricky to catch everything your client expects you to catch.

It made me so nervous because I was used to catching most, if not all, errors, so missing glaring errors was overwhelming. However, after a bit of a learning curve, I started to get the hang of the new system. Now, I feel more equipped to take on even more style guides because I know better how to question my expertise when I’m working with a system I don’t quite understand yet.

Jenn: Given your extensive experience, how do you approach editing and writing projects to clarify and enhance the author’s original message?

Emmy: My focus is always on ensuring that the author is getting to say exactly what they want. Sometimes, that means allowing them to make decisions that I wouldn’t make myself. It’s their piece, so it needs to sound like them more than following the rules or the flow that I think it should follow. However, sometimes writers, even talented, skilled writers, don’t know how to get their thoughts across to their readers.

What makes sense to them often doesn’t make sense to their audience, especially if their audience is large. I try to read everything I’m editing as though I have no context for what the author is talking about so that I can catch problems with clarity and flow. This usually helps me ensure the author is still sharing their message while engaging their audience.

Jenn: What advice would you give to aspiring editors and writers, particularly those interested in religious or mission-focused writing?

Emmy: Get an internship! There is a wealth of knowledge among editors and writers in the publishing world, and they want to give their expertise to people who are willing to receive it. My internship led directly into my career, which doesn’t happen for everyone. But internships give you experience to put on your resume, and they help you hone in on what kind of work you want to be doing.

You might hate the work you do at your internship, but even that will help you to decide where to go next. If you want to get into religious or mission-focused writing, email your favorite Christian magazine, missions organization, or your church’s denomination asking for an internship. We did not get many requests for internships, so basically, everyone who asked became an intern. This may not be true for every publication or organization, but it was certainly true for us.

Jenn: Looking back on your career so far, what do you consider your greatest accomplishment, and why?

Emmy: My time as the managing editor of Alliance Life was an absolute thrill. Being able to execute a creative vision in a physical product gave me so much joy because it made my work tangible. I could share my passion with a large audience, often receiving encouraging feedback about how it affected their lives.

I heard numerous times of people making decisions about their career paths or personal lives because of my team’s work through the magazine. The designer and I worked so closely together, and the magazine just continued to get better and better as we went on. It was a difficult choice to leave, but I am so glad that it was a part of my life for as long as it was.

Jenn: Finally, what are your future goals and aspirations in your career as a freelance proofreader, copyeditor, and writer?

Emmy: All I want from my career is to help more people share their ideas and stories with the world. Whether through a social media post or a full-length novel, people’s lives are changed by the content they consume. We affect each other so much more than we think through our words, and I want to be part of helping others harness the impact of their passions so more lives are changed.

Work With Emmy Duddles on nDash Today!

Do you have a project that aligns with Emmy’s background? Check out her writer profile to see her work and how her experience can help level up your content strategy: Emmy Duddles.