The Process




What You Can Do To Get The Most Out Of What I Do

This section covers matters that I have frequently had to specify or explain to my clients in the course of a resumé project.



If you’re writing things down to send me, don’t waste time formatting them to look like a resumé, or even to look nice. All I need is the information, in Word or plain text. I’ll be formatting everything in your resumé from scratch.

If you send PDFs, keep in mind that, if the PDF was made by scanning, I won’t be able to extract text from it. There are two kinds of PDFs, and the difference can cause serious problems in any business correspondence.

“Native PDFs” are what you get when you create a document in, say, Microsoft Word, and then save it as a PDF. (For more about PDFs, including how to create them, see the PDF article in the Resumé Glossary.) When you send a native PDF to someone else, they can select text in the PDF, and then copy it to another application.

“Scanned PDFs” are what you get when you take a piece of paper with print on it, and then put it through a scanner to be made into a PDF. The resulting file contains no text—just a picture of text. You can’t select the text and copy it. There is no useful way to extract the text from it. There are ways to optically scan the text (OCR scanning), but the results are so inaccurate that it is easier and faster to retype the text from scratch than it is to clean up an OCR scan.


I can do a lot more for you if I have your basic chronological history, and general skills information, before I prepare the questions for the in-depth interview. I usually start from a client’s existing Word or plain-text resumé.

If you don’t have a resumé at all, or your latest resumé doesn’t cover recent positions, you can put down the information yourself, or I can send you a questionnaire (a Microsoft Word document set up with fields that are easy to fill in).

Here’s the information you’ll need to provide:

• Your contact information.

• Information on all your past jobs (dates, job titles, firm name, city & state of location, summary of primary responsibilities. IMPORTANT: Give separate information for each position you held at each firm—merging positions at this stage can create a lot of confusion. I’ll work out how to handle cases of “same position different title,” and similar issues, in discussion with you during the in-depth interview.

• Basic information on your training (dates, institutions, course or degree titles).

• Technical skills (software or specialized technologies).

• Other professional information such as: certifications, licenses, affiliations, etc., with dates, and, where applicable, license numbers and state in which the license is valid.

Make sure the information is accurate. I’ll work with whatever you send me, but incomplete information, or information that doesn’t check out, will make it a lot harder for you to find a job. Also, don’t hold back information because you think it doesn’t belong on your resumé. You’ll be much better off if you give me the whole story and let me decide (in consultation with you) how to present it, and what to leave out.

Yes, it’s a bit of work if you’ve never put it all down before. But no-one else can do it for you, because no-one else has the information. And no stranger will ever hire you without enough information to build a clear and verifiable picture of your professional history.


For the interview, it will help a lot if you have your existing resumé handy, and any other records you may have of your past employment (especially job titles, start and end months/years for each position, and responsibilities and key accomplishments—with numbers, if available, to quantify your achievements).

I suggest a cup of coffee before we talk. Also, have a glass of water handy during the interview—I always do. It helps.

Please note: the interview is nothing like a job interview. I’m not trying to weed you out—I’m working for you, looking for material that will help me present you. As I dig for possible presentation points, we can, and probably should, discuss things that you’d never mention to an interviewer. So you can talk to me on that basis rather than the way you would talk to someone interviewing you for a job. The more information I have, the better I will be able to decide how best to present your background. Not everything you tell me will go in the resumé, of course. I’m accustomed to dealing with business confidentiality issues—we can address those during the interview.


Here are the instructions I send to clients with the approval version of their resumé:

Read the resumé through, carefully, before you even think about making changes or suggestions about anything but simple facts or terminology. You need to do that to know what’s there, and to get a feel for how everything works together, and for the style and the way the style fits the function of the resumé.

• Please double-check your contact information and all the names and dates, and review everything for accuracy of the information.

• Make sure I’ve got all your skills and experience under the right job headings, and that items in lists are grouped correctly.

• When you’re done checking the basics, read it over again to make sure you’re comfortable answering questions based on the wording in the resumé.

DON'T HESITATE TO BE MINUTELY PICKY ABOUT DETAILS OF WHAT YOU DID AND ABOUT PROFESSIONAL/TECHNICAL TERMINOLOGY. When someone asks you a question based on the wording in the resumé, I don’t want you to have to stop and wonder what Ken meant by that. Let me know if you’re not comfortable with any of the language, or if I’ve overstated anything or misinterpreted something in the process of putting together your information. Don’t let me oversell you, and don’t let me undersell you.

I hope you will look at the resumé and think that I’ve done an excellent job of presenting you—but if, in addition, you think that a number of points still need refinement, that’s fine. That includes factual nuances such as what you did or didn’t do in a particular job, as well as emphasis, prioritization, and shades of meaning of terminology. These details are very important, and I’m happy to work with you to get them right. If a phone conversation is the best way to do this, we can arrange that—my schedule is fairly flexible for that sort of thing.

The goal is to get the resumé nailed down in detail now, so you can go about the next stages of your job search without further thought to the resumé.


About the Profile section: Keep in mind that the purpose of the Profile is to make major points that SET YOU APART FROM OTHERS WHO APPLY FOR THE SAME JOB. (This is especially important for more experienced people.) It shouldn’t be a complete inventory of what you did. There’s a limit to how long the Profile can be. That means that common buzzwords, or common skills (even important ones), often don’t cut it—they appear in EVERYONE’S resume, and they turn hiring managers and HR people numb. This is especially true of the “soft skills” that EVERYONE puts at the head of their resumé, whether or not they actually have those skills. If the first lines that someone reads on your resumé turn the reader numb, they’ll have a negative impression right up front, and they may not even read farther—especially when there are a number of other resumés in the pile (as is often the case at the first screening).

That’s why I’ve taken take special care with the Profile section, to write points that really do set you apart, and are backed up by your history, while still reflecting key skills. Skills and experience that everyone in your field has can often be left for the employment history, even if they’re fairly important. Keywords that don’t make the cut for the profile can be taken care of in the employment history. The sole purpose of the profile is to impress humans quickly—and when properly done, it impresses humans like nothing else can, especially at later stages of the hiring process when you’re up against other people on the short list.

• “Keep it on one page” does not apply to people with significant experience in demanding fields. For experienced people in most fields, 2 or 3 pages is common and perfectly acceptable—or even 4 or 5 in some specialties (like I.T.). I have given careful consideration to the length of your resumé. (See the discussion of the one-page resumé myth, in the Killer Myths section of the Tips & F.A.Q. page.)

• Keep in mind that if you add material, adjustments will probably have to be made elsewhere to accommodate it. This is not only because there are limits to how long a resumé should be. Another very important factor, which people often forget, is that you can’t have page breaks just anywhere. For instance, you can’t have the last bullet point of a position description sitting alone at the top of a page, above the heading for the next position description. You can’t have a heading sitting alone at the bottom of a page. And so forth. So I usually can’t just add information in one place and let everything else move down.)

At this stage, I’ve already cut everything that doesn’t contribute significantly to presenting you to your potential market. I’ve probably also cut lower-priority items as needed to keep your resumé to the appropriate length for your field and level of experience. I’ve also usually made the layout as tight as it can get without looking bad. If information needs to be added anywhere, I’d appreciate your feedback on priorities for what else can be removed ON THE SAME PAGE to make room.

The running heads in the resumé really aren’t optional: They keep your name in front of the reader, and are a courtesy to the reader who is handling loose sheets of paper. The “continued” lines are essential too.

• If you give me questions or suggestions about resumé strategy, I will respond with explanations (up to a point), because anything else would make me look arbitrary. I have strong reasons for doing things just the way I do. Those reasons are validated by many years of professional editorial experience, by the practices of knowledgeable resumé professionals, and above all by the feedback I’ve had from my clients. Each resumé involves hundreds of decisions, and it’s not feasible to explain every detail of why I do what I do. The more time I have to spend explaining, the less time I can spend on making the best resumé possible for you. At the approval stage, it’s up to you how much time I spend on quality.

There’s an awful lot of popular misinformation about resumés (and about writing style), and there’s a lot more to the subject than many who pass for experts are aware of. (This, unfortunately, includes many full-time career counselors.) For examples of common misinformation, see the Tips & F.A.Q. page of this site, especially the section on Resumé Myths.

• Please leave questions of English, editorial decisions (such as capitalization), formatting, layout, and above all matters of “style” and “consistency,” strictly to me. What most people think they know about these matters is just guesswork, out-of-context or misremembered school lessons, or popular myths. I have extensive editorial, typographic, and graphic design experience working for leading corporations, consultancies, and ad agencies. (See my old freelance website for details.)

Some commonly asked questions about minor editorial and typographic matters:

1) The bullet points in the Profile do not need to be capitalized or end with a period, because they’re not sentences—and if they don’t have to be, they shouldn’t be, because in this particular visual context they’re more readable without the initial capitals.

3) Occasionally, clients point out that I used the word “I” at some point, and and are concerned that this is “inconsistent.” Of course, “I” is normally omitted in resumés. But in some cases, the word “I” is necessary to make it clear that the subject of the verb is you, and not some other person, group, or organization just referred to. Rewriting is sometimes a solution, but often it would require far more wordage than the point warrants, which would look strange and waste valuable space.

This is not a question of “consistency.” Experts in any field know that perfect consistency is not possible in complicated constructions, because rules sometimes conflict with each other, and requirements sometimes conflict too. The experts know the meta-rules for dealing with the conflicts—usually a question of which consideration takes priority in a given situation.

Sending revisions to me

The best way to send minor revisions to me is as written instructions in an e-mail message. I can also take revisions over the phone, and the phone is best where discussion is needed.

You are also welcome to send a revised Word document as long as ALL changes are marked in the document itself—not with change-tracking. (Cross-version performance of Word’s Review change-tracking feature is unpredictable, and I cannot be responsible for changes sent in this way.) So please make sure you mark the changes by highlighting the affected text or making it a different color. If you just delete something without adding new wording, highlight or color the surrounding text. Unmarked changes may be missed.

Don’t worry about messing up the layout or changing the page breaks when you add comments in the document. I never work on revised documents sent to me. All changes are transferred to my own working documents. (If I didn’t do it this way, the final documents I send you might have serious technical flaws.) The sole function of the document you send back to me is to convey your changes and comments, and it helps to have the changes and comments in the simplest and most flexible form possible.

Revisions marked in PDFs are also strongly discouraged, and may entail extra charges.


Once you have no more changes, be sure to let me know, so I can prepare and send the final package. It contains valuable instructions and tips, and you really do need to have the other resumé formats to meet every possibility for your job search and for future technical contingencies.


How I Write Resumés

A resumé has to effective with all sorts of readers, at all stages of the hiring process. I can usually write one resumé that covers all the markets a given client may explore, so that alternate versions of your resumé are not needed, and you won’t have to tweak your resumé for each prospect—at the cost of time, aggravation, and the risk of introducing mistakes.

The only approach to resumés that gets this result is in-depth information gathering and fact-based, client-specific information strategy. “Tricks” don’t cut it. The common “tricks” either don’t work, or turn a lot of people off, or get you past the first screening but guarantee you’ll flunk the next stage. Some of the common tricks, in fact, guarantee that you’ll get no response to your resumé at all. I see it happen regularly.

The rather superficial, generic facts that job seekers, and other resumé writers, commonly put on resumés don’t cut it either. I look for the information that will help employers form a concrete, complete, and distinctive picture of your background and abilities.

Every employer comes to a resumé with many basic questions about an applicant. Because a thorough, well-structured, content-based resumé answers many more of these basic questions than do most resumés, it makes the employer’s job easier (which they appreciate), and makes them want to move right on to talking to you personally about the things that can only be covered in an interview.

My process is determined by what is necessary to produce such resumés.

Starting from your existing resumé as basic historical framework, I develop interview questions and lines of inquiry to explore each area of your background (probably including some you hadn’t thought of). This advance preparation allows me to review my experience with others in your field, and apply it to your project. This helps me make much more effective use of the interview time.

The interview is an extremely important part of the process. It typically lasts from two to three hours. It’s an intense experience both for me and for the client. Working without preconceptions as to what will be needed, I put you through a sieve to get any information that might possibly help me to present you. I cover the whole range of possibly relevant information—I’ve learned a lot from my experience about where valuable nuggets may be hiding. Later on I’ll sort it out and decide what to use, and how. I always dig up information that my clients would never have thought to mention, either because they took the things for granted or because they didn’t realize that they were relevant until they saw them in the context of my questions. (That’s because my questions reflect what an employer wants to know.)

If there are problematic aspects of a client’s background, or things a client isn’t sure how to present, I’ll discuss them with the client, and can also discuss how to deal with them in an interview. Sometimes the solution is surprisingly easy, since it’s often just a matter of providing clarification with information specific to your own case. (This is sometimes true even in cases where there are perceived gaps in employment.) In more difficult cases, I can advise you about different informational approaches you can take for different situations, and about the tradeoffs you may have to manage. I’ll also write the resumé to lay the groundwork for any talking points you may need to give the best presentation.

The interview, therefore, is a major part of the value I provide. My clients very often remark on how much they’ve learned from it. One of them called it “resumé therapy.”

The interview is also, of course, the foundation for an exceptionally effective resumé.

When the interview is done, I’ll review the information I’ve gathered and decide on my approach to the resumé as a whole, and to each element of it. Then I’ll write it, slowly and carefully, one section at a time but always hopping around to tweak as I get new ideas or see new correlations. I write to show your professional development, showcase your achievements and also the abilities and knowledge behind those achievements—not only technical abilities, but the full range of management skills. For key achievements, I’ll build the bullet points into a brief, orderly cause-to-effect sequence to reinforce the picture of purposive management. Where your record has gained you professional advancement, I’ll make that clear. I’ll write to show how long you’ve exercised the key skills that you possess, and in what contexts.

I pay special attention to the Profile section at the beginning of the resumé. Items in the profile are carefully prioritized, so the things that will grab the most people and motivate them to pay careful attention to you will be right up top. Similar items will be grouped together to reinforce each other. Claims made in the profile will all be backed up by the history in the resumé—the reader won’t be left wondering if they’re for real.

As in the rest of the resumé, the emphasis is on substance. Most people fill the profile—and the whole resumé—with soft skills, empty buzzwords, and sales talk copied from somewhere else. When an employer sees this, his eyes and mind bounce right off, because it’s the same stuff in almost every resumé he sees, so it obviously doesn’t mean anything at all. I usually put soft skills at the end of the profile, and I limit them to the most important soft skills for your objective, the ones that are fully backed up by the history in the resumé. This does justice to your own soft skills, while showing you as someone who can back up claims with facts. In order to be sure I’ve got everything in the Profile that needs to be there, and made the best choice of the available points, I write the Profile last, after I’ve thoroughly sifted your information in the course of writing your history and other qualifications.

(The profile is also the most effective location for keywords if the employer uses an applicant processing system that scans resumés for keywords. This is increasingly common even for management positions.)

One of my specialties is using raw information to tell stories. There’s no room for narrative in a resumé—no room for all the connecting phrases and other wording that make a narrative readable and effective. But with enough information, carefully chosen and arranged to make each point, the logical connections will get the main points of the story across: they’ll not only show the employer what you’ve done but show that your contribution was real and distinctive, show that you can work successfully with the full range of stakeholders, and work to achieve enterprise goals as well as departmental goals. This assures them that you can do valuable things for future employers. Because the picture is far more concrete than the usual, and because it is based on detail specific to your own background, the resumé will make you stand out sharply and positively from your competitors, especially at later stages of the hiring process when you’re up against other people on the short list.

Sometimes, where stories aren’t possible, I can put in talking points. There may be background that doesn’t go in the resumé, but which you might still want to make a point of in an interview, or at least in some interviews. The reasons are various: Sometimes, it’s something that is only relevant to some of the positions you might be applying to, and there’s just not room for it on the resumé. In other cases, it’s something of secondary importance that could be covered briefly and appropriately in a conversation about related points, but would take more space than it’s worth if put clearly and in context on the resumé. Occasionally, it’s sensitive information that can’t be put on a resumé but that you can talk about with the right person. I find out about these things during the in-depth interview. When writing, I look for opportunities to insert some wording in the resumé that would provide a basis for these talking points—perhaps even a cue for the interviewer. This may not happen in every resumé I write, but it happens often.

It doesn’t pay to be stingy with information. No matter how much advance research you do on a prospect, there’s no telling when some specific point, that you might never have anticipated, will grab someone’s attention as something they are particularly interested in—or even “just what I’m looking for.” This is especially true for higher-level positions, where a resumé may be reviewed by a number of people on a management team, any of whom might respond to such an unanticipated cue. It could be a question of experience demanded by a planned acquisition or expansion, or the upcoming retirement of someone on the staff, or any new development. The more specific and unusual the point, the less likely that any of your competitors will have mentioned it. So it pays to keep an eye out for specific concrete items in your history or skill set that might answer to such unanticipated possibilities. They are probably worth making room for if they will in any case reinforce the picture of your core history and skills. Done carefully and concisely on a highly individualized basis, this can open additional doors to you and help put you at the top of an employer’s short list.

A frequent problem with writing resumés is to make clear the sequence of positions and responsibilities, so the employer doesn’t get confused and start wondering if something is being deliberately left unclear. Sometimes the problem is chronological, with overlapping employment or other complications. Often, it is a question of changes in title (or even of employer, in the case of acquisitions) without changes in responsibility, or of important increases in responsibility without changes in title. These problems, too, can be solved by presenting the relevant information clearly and concisely.

A resumé needs a clear information hierarchy to allow scanning or reading at different levels of detail by different people at different stages in the hiring process, while making sure that the information most important at each stage is prominent at the level each reader is looking at. Only in this way can a resumé get you through the initial screening while still making the more complete case needed at later stages.

With this kind of attention to information strategy and typographic strategy, a resumé can open doors at every stage in the hiring process: 1) the initial automated screening, 2) the screening in the HR department by the assistant of the HR person in charge of jobs like yours, 3) the senior HR person, 4) the hiring manager and, for executive positions, 5) the whole management team. It also includes the stage that people often forget about when thinking about resumés: AFTER you’ve gotten the job, and have been working successfully in a company, and are in line for consideration for further advancement.

It’s a serious challenge in resumé writing to get this all to work in two or three pages, while keeping the resumé clear, concise, interesting, and easy to read. The resumé has to be all meat. There’s no room for the generic language and boilerplate that makes most resumés look alike. (If you’ve heard the myth about keeping your resumé on one page, and are concerned about it, see Killer Myth #1: “Keep It On One Page” for a discussion of this.)

A resumé with all of the above in it doesn’t come out perfect on the first pass. Quality control (QC) is a distinct production stage in all professional writing processes, and a stage that requires special skills that come only with training and experience. QC is a stage that is often overlooked by people without professional experience in graphic communications. Most resumé writers never had such experience, and never even knew of the existence of a specialized body of writing skills, much less QC skills. I’ve had years of QC experience in editorial and typographic production, for leading publishers, ad agencies, and consultancies. On each resumé project, I spend more time on QC than cheap resumé writers spend on the whole project. The result is a document that can stand inspection anywhere.


Fee Levels

Fees depend on the type and level of position you’re seeking. The longer you’ve been working, the more there is to present about you. And certain fields and markets require more elaborate presentations, more fine-tuning, and more extensive research and interviewing.

I want to keep the fee system as simple and transparent as possible, so you’ll know in advance what sort of fees you would be looking at for the services you might like. At the same time, I want to keep fees fair to you and to me, and that requires a certain amount of fine-tuning in matching prices to the amount of work done.

My solution is a fairly detailed system of job-search types and fee levels.

I use five fee levels, from Level 1, which covers services for people just entering the job market, to Level 5, which covers services for VP- or C-level executives. A single fee level can cover more than one job-search type, since different job-search types may require about the same amount of work, and thus the same pricing.

To find out which fee level applies to you, look at the list of job-search types below, to find the job-search type that best fits your job search, and see which fee level it belongs to. You should usually be able to find one of these job-search types that fits you. If you can’t, come as close as possible.

When the number of jobs you have held is a criterion for determining your fee level, any job for which responsibilities and accomplishments are described is counted as a job. Each period when you were freelancing, temping, or doing contract work for a number of clients, all of which would be described in a single section of your resumé, is normally counted as one job.

In the service descriptions on the Services page, you’ll see prices for each service and product, at each fee level.


Entry-level (except Tech/IT): People new to the job market, with less than two years of work experience, not counting employment during high school or college. (Career-changers do not go in this category.)

Student: College applicants & students applying for graduate programs (masters, doctoral).

Typically a one-page resumé, but I’ll go longer if that’s what it takes and if it’s acceptable in your field.

GENERAL BUSINESS: (2 job-search types, below)

The General Business 1 and 2 job-search types cover pretty much anything that doesn’t obviously belong to any of the other groups. They each cover a fairly broad range of responsibilities, experience, and activities, but with similar cost requirements for resumé writing.

These job-search types include most business and manufacturing jobs, including management and supervisory positions with small numbers of people (up to about ten) reporting to you, but no primary authority over budgeting, hiring, policy, etc. Also included are retail sales positions and local territory sales positions; those seeking sales positions with large territories or management responsibilities should go to the General Business: Management and Senior Sales job-search type. Other types of work covered by these job-search types include office support, arts & letters, entertainment, specialized instructors.

— General Business 1: LEVEL 2

2–7 years experience and 1–3 professionally-relevant jobs in your field. (If you have more than 3 jobs in your field, use the General Business 2 job-search type. Any job for which responsibilities and accomplishments are described is considered a professionally-relevant job.)

Typically a one- to two-page resumé, often including short discussions, in bullet points, of responsibilities and accomplishments.

— General Business 2: LEVEL 3

8+ years experience or 4+ professionally-relevant jobs in your field. (Anyone with 8+ years of experience usually belongs in this level, even with less than four jobs. Any job for which responsibilities and accomplishments are described is considered a professionally-relevant job.)

Typically a two-page resumé, often including short discussions, in bullet points, of responsibilities and accomplishments.


Technicians, researchers, Information Technology specialists: 0–5 years experience or up to 3 jobs in your field.

Typically a one- to two-page resumé with a lot of technical detail that requires some extra time and effort on my part to collect, write, and present clearly and accurately.


Technicians, researchers, Information Technology specialists: 5+ years experience or 4+ jobs in your field.

Executives in these fields should go to the Executive job-search type. Those requiring credentials of the sort peculiar to CVs should go to the CV job-search type.

Typically a two- to three-page resumé with a lot of technical detail that requires some extra time and effort on my part to collect, write, and present clearly and accurately.


Corporate managers who aren’t executives or directors, but who have authority over budgeting, hiring, policy, etc. Top-level people at smaller firms may also fit here. Also sales positions with large territories or management responsibilities.

Typically a tightly written and carefully presented resumé two or three pages long, including short discussions, in bullet points, of responsibilities and accomplishments. Resumés in this level require greater detail and precision in writing and presentation, and more extensive interviewing to get at the needed details of experience and skills.


“The professions”—fields with traditionally recognized special credentials: accountants, engineers, architects, lawyers, physicians, and most healthcare providers.

Executives in these fields should go to the Executive job-search type. Those who need to present credentials of the sort peculiar to CVs should go to the CV job-search type. (Nursing resumés, however, though sometimes referred to as CVs, are priced as for regular resumés, unless they involve extra length for detail on publications, research, etc.)

Typically a two- to three-page resumé with technical and/or professional detail that requires some extra time and effort on my part to collect, write, and present clearly and accurately.


Those seeking senior management positions, typically Director, VP, President, or C-level. A lot will depend on the size of the company, of course.

Typically a tightly written and carefully presented two- or three-page resumé, including specially developed presentations of responsibilities and accomplishments, requiring more questioning, and especially thoughtful writing.


Pick the job search type that best fits both the position you are seeking and the duration of your relevant experience in the armed forces. I’ll be sure to make the most of your transferable skills.


Pick the job-search type and fee level from 3 to 5 that fits either the position you are seeking or your previous work experience, whichever is more senior. I’ll be sure to make the most of your transferable skills.


A CV (curriculum vitae, or “vitae”) lists, in addition to the material found in a resumé, such credentials as: dissertations, publications and conference papers, residencies, lectureships, special research activities, organizational responsibilities, etc. This requires substantial additional work; CV services are priced separately under each applicable fee level. (Depending on the amount of actual content, some professional CVs, including most nursing CVs, may be priced as resumés.)

If you need both a curriculum vitae and a resumé, see the notes in the pricing tables for the standard service packages, on the Services page.


Process   |   Privacy & Confidentiality Policy   

Shopping for Resumé Services   |   On the Spelling of “Resumé”



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The greatest passion of mankind is not love or hate, but the need to  change  alter someone else’s copy.
—seen in an old typeface specimen book
(H.G. Wells and Arthur Evans made similar comments.)