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Eleanor Gould Packard, 87; shaped prose of New Yorker

NEW YORK -- Eleanor Gould Packard, who was known for her proofreading, copy editing, and probing of the language of thousands of articles in The New Yorker, died Sunday at age 87, her daughter Susan Hathaway Packard told The New York Times.

Though she was not known by a particular title at the magazine, she was noted for her intricate attention to vocabulary, syntax, grammar, flow, and punctuation of many nonfiction writers who have contributed to The New Yorker, including E.B. White, Roger Angell, and Wolcott Gibbs.

New Yorker editor David Remnick has called Mrs. Packard "an indispensable person" at the magazine.

"The relationship to her is as intimate as it gets," he said. "She has been inside my sentences."

Born in 1917 in Newark, N.Y., she graduated summa cum laude from Oberlin College in Ohio and came to New York after being taught editing by the New Jersey poet Aline Kilmer.

In 1945, she joined The New Yorker's staff and in '46 married colleague Frederick A. Packard.

She remained at the magazine for 54 years before retiring after a stroke, and became known for her attention to detail and care for the text. Many there believe she is responsible for the style of The New Yorker's prose.

In an interview, she once told a Times reporter: "I'll have to stage a faked death and come back to correct my obit."

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Packard leaves two grandsons. Her husband died in 1974.

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