Manuscript Preparation, Copyediting, and Proofreading

Q. I recently began working as a reporter and copy editor at a small weekly newspaper. My editor tells me to correct grammar and style errors in letters to the editor. This seems strange to me. I think those errors characterize the persons writing them and we should leave them as is. Who is right?

A. It’s a kindness to save a writer from being characterized as sloppy or ignorant when a letter appears in print under his or her name. Your inclination not to meddle is well founded, however, since insensitive editing can also embarrass the writer. It’s best to be conservative with changes. Many newspapers and magazines print a notice that letters have been edited.