Ethos for an Editor1

Ethos for an Editor1


Ethos for an Editor: An Analysis of the Rhetorical Strategies Used in the Website of a Freelance Editor For-Hire

Lauren G. Miller

Appalachian State University

Author Note

Lauren G. Miller, student, Appalachian State University.

Lauren Miller is currently a student at Appalachian State University pursuing a major in English with a concentration in Professional Writing and a minor in Spanish.


In this paper, I explore the rhetorical strategies used by freelance editor, researcher, ghostwriter, and fact checker Stephen Evans on his website, I focus mainly on Evans’ use of ethos—both effective and ineffective—and how this strategy influences the overall effectiveness of his argument. I also explore components such as purpose, exigence, constraints, and rhetors in order to better place the website in its rhetorical context. In the end, I draw some conclusions as to the effectiveness of Evans’ argument and as to whether or not he successfully markets himself to his audience, which consists largely of potential clients.

Keywords: ethos, editing, freelance, marketing, blogs


Stephen Evans is the author of the website ( that I will be analyzing. His website is devoted mainly to marketing himself as a freelance editor, and the main rhetorical strategy that he employs in accomplishing this goal is ethos. Not only must Evans establish himself as a credible author of his website, but he must also establish himself as a reliable, capable, and credible freelance editor. These two goals work together in many ways. In order for his audience to believe him when he attempts to persuade them of his credibility as an editor, Evans must first establish his credibility as an author (specifically the author of this website). As such, ethos plays a vitally important role in this artifact. By providing an extensive resume, using language designed to ingratiate himself to his audience, and expanding upon both his technique and philosophy as an editor, Evans uses ethos to establish himself as an author who can be taken at his word and as someone who can be believed when he writes about his editing capabilities.

Purpose and Exigence

The main purpose behind Evan’s creation of his website, an Editor’s Blog, is relatively simple to pick up on. Evans uses this website as a platform on which to market himself. The website includes pages with titles such as “Why the-freelance-editor?” (2015) in which Evans explains that he has “accumulated nearly thirty years of experience researching, organizing, editing, and ghostwriting” (2015), making him a highly qualified and experienced editor. This line alone clues the reader in to Evan’s purpose. The persuasive language and long list of qualifications make it sound like a resume, and much of the website essentially is exactly that. In short, this website serves many of the same purposes as a resume would.

Evan’s blog is also designed to help market him as a freelancer. In an article by Kristy Stuart entitled “10 Tips for Marketing Yourself as a Freelance Writer Online,” Stuart recommends “marketing yourself via a well-written, resourceful, and consistent blog” (2013). Although Evans is an editor, not a writer, much of Stuart’s advice is also applicable to him. Additionally, the recommendation of keeping a blog is a piece of advice that is very often given to freelancers. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Evans’ may have been given this common advice at some point in his career, which would mean that one of the purposes behind his blog posts is self-promotion and marketing.

The exigence for Evan’s website has a lot to do with the fact that people need editors. If no one ever needed to hire a freelance editor, this website would not exist. Additionally, people often look for freelancers via the internet. The fact that the internet has become such a well-known meeting ground for freelancers and their prospective employers is also part of what allows blogs such as Evans’ to exist.

Rhetorical Triangle


As I have stated earlier, the author of this blog is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, and researcher named Stephen Evans. He describes himself as “…a professional, and experienced, freelance editor…” (2015). Evans also offers a concise summary of the work that he does: “I work with bloggers, publishers, Web page designers, personal historians, and museum curators, as well as experienced writers and rising authors, providing not only editorial services but also ghostwriting, proofreading, and fact-checking services” (2015). From this brief description, it sounds as though Evans is a sort of “jack-of-all-trades”—or at least all trades related to editing. In order to claim proficiency in such a wide variety of skills, Evans must be able to present his qualifications. Without them, it would be easy for readers to believe that he is simply trying to make himself sound better than he really is. Evans is careful to avoid this. His website includes sections such as “a short company history,” “an autobiographical sketch,” and “a current resume” (2015). I will discuss these pages in detail in my section on Evans’ ethos. In short, Evans’ editing career first started when he worked as the news editor for his campus newspaper and further developed as he worked as a reference librarian “…writing and editing a monthly annotated book review newsletter of new titles…” (2015). He then worked a few more jobs related mainly to research before being hired as a general editor for the North Carolina Museum of History, which eventually led to him taking a job as an editor of the Tar Heel Junior Historian. He started the-freelance-editor as a second business in 1998, and it has developed into his full-time job (Evans, 2015). Evans goes into much greater detail on how one career led to the next in other sections of his website, specifically on the page entitled “a short company history,” but the above list may act as a general overview of his qualifications related to past work experiences. Other qualifications are enumerated on his resume, and I will go over these when I discuss ethos.


Much like Evans’ work, his audience is highly diverse. First and foremost, Evans is writing to potential clients. These potential clients are anyone and everyone who may at some point require the services of a freelance editor, ghostwriter, researcher, or fact checker. Specifically these may include, “individuals, museums, organizations…offices, small businesses, restaurants…professional wordsmiths, coerced letter writers, aspiring authors” (Evans, 2015). Additionally, Evans’ audience includes other freelance writers and editors who may at some point want to work with him. It also includes companies that may potentially want to hire him as a long-term employee. Lastly, it may include friends and family members who want to know more about what he does for a living.


Evans’ work and services offered as an editor, ghostwriter, researcher, and fact checker are the main subjects of this website. Evans uses the site as a platform on which to market himself, which makes him and the work that he does the main focus.


Ethos is Evans’ most powerful and most widely used rhetorical strategy for marketing himself. In order for people to want to hire him, they must truly believe that he is a highly qualified writer and editor. It is vitally important for Evans to establish his credibility as both the author of this website and as an experienced and proficient editor. The main way that he accomplishes these goals is through the use of ethos.

Evans begins establishing his credibility as an editor from the very first page when he writes “…I can help…” (2015). Such a simple statement actually goes a long way in encouraging the reader to believe that Evans is credible. Because this statement is one of the first things one reads upon visiting this website, it works to prime the reader so that they believe, from the very beginning, that Evans is both qualified and capable of helping them.

Evans’ use of ethos becomes more apparent in the pages under the heading of “About the-freelance-editor” (2015). Each of these pages include information that works in different ways to establish Evans’ credibility, whether this is by showcasing his past work experiences, providing information on his educational background, or speaking to his editorial technique. In the following sections, I will go into detail on how each of these pages work to help establish Evans’ credibility as both the author of this website and as an experienced and capable editor, ghostwriter, researcher, and fact checker.

About the-Freelance-Editor

This page is the jumping-off point for all the other sections listed below. As such, it is the first thing people read before exploring more specific pages, such as those on Evans’ company history or resume. Website visitors who do not have much time may only read the information on this page instead of taking the time to explore the other sections on Evans’ various qualifications, so Evans needs to be able to convince these people of his credibility right away. It is also important for him to keep the information on this page as brief as possible since it serves as a sort of overview for the rest of the categories. Ideally, this page should be something that will completely convince a reader of Evans’ credibility without including so much information that the reader, particularly the reader who is in a hurry, does not have enough time to read it all. One thing Evans has done very well on this page is to keep his writing brief and concise. While writing concisely may not directly relate to ethos, it is necessary for Evans to hold the reader’s attention long enough to employ this rhetorical strategy.

On this page, Evans begins by introducing himself as the author of the website: “Material for an Editor’s Blog is compiled by Stephen, the-freelance-editor” (2015). At first glance, this statement may not appear to be a component of any particular rhetorical strategy; it may look like mere information. However, this introduction serves a vitally important role in Evans’ use of ethos. In order for him to be able to establish his credibility as the author of this website, he must first state that he actually is the author of the website. In other words, the readers need to know who it is that they are reading; they need to know where the information comes from, and they need to know who is making claims as to Evans’ credibility. In this sentence, Evans lets them know that he is making claims about his own credibility, not about anyone else. While this does introduce bias (humans are more apt to speak positively about themselves than they are to speak positively about others), it also enhances his credibility as one may assume that Evans knows himself better than anyone else does. He is the expert on his own qualifications.

Evans then goes on to claim that he is “…a professional, and experienced, freelance editor…” (2015). This is a statement obviously designed to bolster his ethos; however, it contains one major flaw: it is not grammatically correct. As an editor, Evans should be the expert on grammar. When he proofreads for clients, he should presumably be able to point out and correct each and every single one of their grammatical errors—yet here he commits one of his own (and a rather elementary one at that). Evans should not have included commas setting off “and experienced,” since “and experienced” is not an independent clause. For the sentence as a whole to be grammatically correct, this phrase should be, “…a professional and experienced freelance editor…” It is a subtle difference, and perhaps the vast majority of people would not even notice the error. However, those who did would likely immediately doubt Evans’ capability as an editor. To Evans’ credit, comma rules are at times rather vague. If he considers “and experienced” to be “not essential to the meaning of the sentence” (Driscoll & Brizee, n.d.), then he has used commas correctly. But I would argue that the fact that he is “experienced” is essential in this sentence, and I believe many others would as well. Again, it is very likely that many of Evans’ readers would not even notice this small grammatical mistake, but this does not preclude the fact that professional editors should not commit any grammatical mistakes. To do so damages their credibility as professionals, and in committing this mistake, Evans has likewise damaged his credibility.

In the second full paragraph of this page, Evans briefly hits the highlights of his past work experience with the statement, “I work with bloggers, publishers, Web page designers, personal historians, and museum curators, as well as experienced writers and rising authors, providing not only editorial services but also ghostwriting, proofreading, and fact-checking services” (2015). This statement is intentionally long enough to give the reader the sense that Evans has had an overwhelming amount of experience in the editing world. He could have just as easily separated it into two or three sentences, but that would not produce the same effect on the reader. Evans uses this long, almost run-on sentence as a way to better establish his credibility as a highly experienced editor.

Why the-Freelance-Editor?

This section provides perhaps Evans’ strongest use of ethos. The first paragraph is composed of multiple sentence fragments rather than “proper,” full sentences, but in this case, the grammatical errors read more as stylistic choices rather than mere mistakes. Evans composed this paragraph in fragments for a very specific reason. In order to better illustrate the strong use of ethos in this particular paragraph, I will quote it in full below:

Why choose me, over all the other freelance/for-hire editors out there? Because, I’ve accumulated nearly thirty years of experience researching, organizing, editing, and ghostwriting materials such as books, manuals, and magazines for general audiences. Because, for the past fifteen years or so, I have focused on substantive reviewing, copyediting, and proofreading museum labels, visitor guides, and teacher packets. Because I have helped manage beginners and experts with the development of children’s and young adult fiction works, non-fiction materials of all sorts, and personal, family, and company histories. And, because, I have helped all levels of writers with more aspects of writing than I ever imagined (and on all types of budgets and deadlines, as well)!

(Evans, 2015)

The very first sentence in this paragraph is actually the only grammatically correct one. This first sentence serves to prime the reader to the information that they are about to receive. Evans suggests a question that they should be asking of him and then goes on to answer that question in great detail. By suggesting the exact question for his readers to ask, Evans is able to maintain a greater level of control over them. He knows exactly what it is that he should be answering since he is the one who framed the question itself. While this rhetorical choice may not directly relate to ethos, it does help Evans to establish stronger ethos throughout the rest of the paragraph by keeping the reader focused on the exact question he presents.

The rest of this paragraph consists of sentence fragments beginning with either “and” or “because.” Evans’ purpose for structuring the paragraph this way is to encourage the reader to feel as though they are being overwhelmed with information. It is as if he has so much past experience and so many qualifications that he cannot possibly fit them all into grammatically correct sentences. His qualifications are so overwhelming that they can only be captured in a never ending list. In fact, the list itself is so long that it must be separated in to several smaller lists. Evans does this so that the reader will believe he is incredibly highly qualified—so highly qualified that he has to break grammar rules to even get it across. It is also important to note that Evans has not broken grammar rules here in a way that would suggest he is merely unfamiliar or clumsy with them, but in a way to suggest a stylistic choice. Not only does the long list of qualifications bolster his credibility, but this paragraph also serves as an example of how he is able to bend and break grammar rules for stylistic reasons. This is an important ability for an editor to have when editing a work of creative fiction, and it is also an incredibly difficult ability to master. Evans cleverly uses this paragraph as a way to prove that he is capable of determining when grammar rules should be followed and when it should be bent, which also strengthens his credibility as an editor who is able to do much more than merely correct grammar mistakes.

My [Evans’] Technique

Evans uses this page to describe exactly how the editing process might occur between him and a potential client. Overall, the level of detail included on this page and the formal, professional tone of his writing frame him as a highly experienced professional. Only someone who has worked on multiple projects over and over again would be able to describe the process in such great detail.