About Us

I (namely, Fred) am a dyed-in-the-wool word lover whose decades-long career of stringing sentences together – both for publishers of all types and on my own – has seemed less a job than a pastime offering limitless satisfaction, entertainment, and sheer fun. I’ve also learned to adapt a composition’s style and tone to varied audiences; whether to reject or embrace the latest verbal trends; and to veer from the rules of all-purpose style manuals as necessary. In short, I know the score, and so do the members of my team – and we’re ready, willing, and able to share our skills.

After all, there are times you can’t be too careful. You never know when a misused word or mangled sentence may put you at a disadvantage, be it in the job search, a college application, a pitch to your boss for a promotion, or a letter of complaint to the local hardware store. That’s where the Run It By Fred team comes in, helpmates who will keep you out of (compositional) harm’s way and spare you even the tiniest bit of embarrassment.

Why Us?

Here are a few reasons you may want to go with us over the abundance of other editorial services websites out there. The Run It By Fred team…

  • Is more tested than most  That’s another way of saying that decades upon decades’ worth of wordsmithing experience (most of it earned in the big leagues) is hard to beat.
  • Gets the value of personal service Without fail we will discuss with you your needs, expectations, and the most reasonable turnaround time for a job. You’ll also be given the choice of reviewing our edits in one of two ways: electronic tracking or clear-cut nontracked cross-outs and highlighting.
  •  Stays on top of common usage  Language doesn’t stand still, nor will it ever. (The doesn’t in the previous sentence would have had schoolmarms of the eighteenth century rapping my knuckles for contracting do not). In this instant-everything age, changes that once took centuries to take hold can happen over the course of mere years (or even months), and we keep an eye on the speedy evolution of American English for both your sake and ours.
  • Knows when to break the rules  Style guides are de rigueur in publishing houses and other media outlets, with the Chicago Manual of Style one of the most widely used. Yet style, tone, and even rules depend on your targeted audience. More important than following rules by rote is consistency, whether in formality, the use of italics or quotation marks, or punctuation in general. In this regard you’ll be in good hands with RIBF, given our ability to balance the two traditional approaches to language:

          — The prescriptive. The linguistic sense of prescriptivism sees English as governed by strict rules… a view of grammar, punctuation, and spelling that held forth (though less and less firmly) from the seventeenth century to today.
          — The descriptive.  Believers in descriptivism hold that standard (or preferred) English grows from the speech of its everyday speakers, an acknowledgment that the common man has the last word.

  • Separates the written from the conversational  With the exception of e-mail messages, texts, and tweets, writing is more formal than conversation, but to what degree depends on your audience (see rule-breaking, above). Once we understand what you’re looking for, we’ll make sure your piece ends up with the appropriate style and tone.
  • Helps “the star you are” shine  If you excel in practically every way except writing, we’ll see to it that any piece you’ve submitted to RIBF measures up not only to your high standards but to those of your friends and associates. (By the way, some of the most multitalented, capable people we know are weak writers, so don’t feel like the Lone Ranger*.)

*See Clichéd, Not Cliché

The Tasty Frosting

Our Grab Bag, Wordology, and WTF? sections serve up essays-cum-blogs designed to appeal to all and sundry. Included are musings on the place of English in the family of languages… explorations of archaic words and baffling euphemisms… praise for various aspects of our language… those “as heard on radio or TV” bloopers that assail our eyes and ears day after day… and more. A treat for browsers, such offerings are what we consider RIBF’s icing on the cake.

Who the Sam Hill* is Fred?

Skim these telegraphic peeks into my past as you please.

  • Born and bred in the north-central Texas town of Corsicana (pop. 25,000) with printer’s ink in the blood, thanks to my father’s job at the daily newspaper. As a kid, worked as a paperboy on weekends.
  • Studied Journalism and English at the University of Texas–Austin and, starting in my junior year, wrote a weekly column for The Daily Texan, the student newspaper.
  • Went straight from college to Peace Corps service in Polynesia. At the request of the Tongan government, did my part to help the island nation get an information office/tourist bureau up and running.
  • Back in the USA, earned a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri–Columbia. Participated in the J School’s Brussels-based program for grad students and spent my final semester traveling through the Benelux countries and France to research and write feature stories for U.S. newspapers.
  • Returned to the South Pacific, this time taking up residency in Sydney, where freelancing led to a job in the General Books division of Reader’s Digest Australia and, in due course, executive editorship of said division.
  • Several years later repatriated myself, joined Reader’s Digest US, and tackled books of every stripe. Became Editorial Director of Reader’s Digest Illustrated Reference Books and, in early 2002, took early retirement.
  • Resumed full-time freelancing and conceived, mapped out, researched, and wrote an eclectic collection of books; doctored or fleshed out the books of various publishers; and originated content for a number of websites. For a look at some of my book work (and one from-scratch issue of a magazine for kids), check out Bookstuff by Fred in the Book-O-Rama menu.

*Sam Hill, a euphemism for hell, dates back to the early 1800s. Although more than one American town has claimed the seminal “Mr. Hill” as a resident, the origins of the term are unknown.