ACES Evolve 2023

Tone: The Music of Editing | Merrill Pearlman

What music do you hear when you read James Patterson? Ina Garten? Toni Morrison? A Defense Department report? A church news bulletin? The music should have changed when the author or context did. That’s tone, and every piece we edit has tone. But how does tone happen? What affects it? How can an editor make sure the tone is accurate? We’ll talk about tone through the context of music and language. I promise not to sing.

Intermediate level, All editors, Words and Lanugage


Merrill Perlman spent 25 years at The New York Times in jobs ranging from copy editor to director of copy desks, in charge of all 150-plus copy editors then at The Times. Now, she coaches writers and editors in self-editing, grammar, language and clarity, where her clients have included the Poynter Institute, Weather Channel, FoxNews, communications companies, corporations and foundations. She’s a freelance editor who has edited Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters, Erica Jong, Sloane Crossley, The Onion, Stephen King, John Sculley and Kurt Vonnegut (posthumously, for him). She’s on the board of the ACES Education Fund.

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