Why I Love Editing

love-editing

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We writers love to hate our editor.

Saying “the editor goofed it up” is one way to escape the blame for a poorly written piece.

In some ways, editing is the least favorite of the writing-related professions for many writers.

Some writers hate editing even if they are asked to do it themselves. I’ve met writers who won’t accept editing projects.

Not me. I happen to love editing projects and I’m always glad when I’m offered one. Likewise, I appreciate the efforts of a good editor.

Whether you like editing or not, there’s a lot of demand for good editors. My recent editing projects have included a white paper, the copy for an infographic, and a book for children.

In this post, I’ll explain why some writers dislike editing. I’ll also describe the reasons why I happen to love it.

Why Some Writers Dislike Editing

Editing makes a lot of writers uncomfortable. I totally understand that.

Here are some of the reasons why writers dislike editing:

  • They disagree with the editor. A writer may feel that the editor’s decision is flat-out wrong. Or, they might believe that the editor didn’t understand their writing.
  • They view editing as criticism. When a writer receives an edited piece of work and sees the changes, they often feel like they are being graded … and that they failed.
  • A few bad apples. Let’s face it. There are some truly bad editors out there. If a writer has been burnt by a bad editing experience, they are more likely to dislike editing in the future.
  • Deadline pressure. Editing takes time. If the writer is close to a deadline, the extra time it takes to edit a piece could mean missing the tight deadline.

Sometimes editing also makes editors uncomfortable. Here are some of those reasons.

  • Possible confrontation. The editor may fear that the writer will argue about the changes or be otherwise unpleasant. No one enjoys that, and editors are no different.
  • Grammar changes. You may think that grammar is cut and dried, but that’s actually not true. Language changes all the time and a good editor has to keep up. (For some examples of grammar controversy, see The 20 Most Controversial Rules in the Grammar World on the Online College.org blog.
  • Editing is hard. Let’s face it. Some people are not good at writing. When you’re given a very poor piece of writing to edit, fixing all the mistakes is a lot of work.

Why I Love Editing

While editing may make some writers uncomfortable, I really enjoy it. Here’s why:

  • I meet people. Editing has given me a chance to interact with writers and other people who I never would have met otherwise. Many of my editing clients go on to become part of my writing/freelancing network. My life is richer for these relationships.
  • I see people succeed. It’s great when someone whose work I’ve edited becomes successful. I like to think that maybe my editing has helped (in a small way) another writer to take their writing to the next level.
  • I help people. I view editing as a way of helping people improve themselves by improving their writing. Communication skills are a basic life skill. The communication tips I share may help that writer in the future.
  • I make something better. As an editor, I get the chance to take something good and make it even better. Improving a piece of writing gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  • I learn new things. As an editor, I get to learn about the topics of the pieces that I edit. And, as I mentioned earlier, since grammar is not cut and dried, I also get the chance to learn more about the English language.

5 Tips to Make the Editing Experience Better

Editing doesn’t have to be a negative experience for anyone. Both the writer and the editor can take steps to improve the it. Here are a few tips.

  1. Check your work carefully before you send it to editing.
  2. View the editor as your helper and not your critic.
  3. Plan enough time for an edit so you don’t miss a deadline.
  4. Be flexible and try to see the editor’s point of view.
  5. If you are an editor, mention the positives as well as the mistakes.

What About You?

What have your experiences with editing been like? Do you accept these types of projects? Has your writing been edited?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. says

    I hate editing so much that I took it out of my list of services. It’s not the process itself (except sometimes). I think one of my strengths is interaction with others but I hated when I received a really poorly written piece from someone and had to do major editing.

    The final straw for me was editing on a technical industry assignment on continuing education courses. The technical writer had written well in the past. But then it changed. Her writing changed so much I wondered if it was the same writer. Sentences went on for days. Passive voice ruled.

    I don’t know if it was the knowledge that I could “clean up” after her or her desire to bang out as many as she could as fast as she could for the money.

    After that assignment, I hung up my eraser. Editing is an art form in technique and human interaction. I love a good editor. Lucky for me, I know more than one. :-)

    • says

      Thanks Cathy,

      I know you’re not the only writer who dislikes editing. I’ve heard others say the same thing.

      Editing very poorly written materials can be frustrating, I agree. But somehow, I get a real sense of accomplishment from improving something and editing fits the bill.

      Actually, I like a mix of writing and editing best. Of course, like most of us, I find editing my own work to be tricky.

  2. says

    Laura, I’m an editor first and a writer second. Many of my clients are poor writers as I work on a lot of memoirs and family histories. The writers want to tell their story but have no interest in developing their writing skills. For example, I’m currently working on the World War II memoir of a 93-year-old veteran. There is a lot of confusing narrative, convoluted chronology, and repetition in his story, and I love taking that and turning it into a readable and enjoyable story. I do work with some excellent authors who have published several books, and I also like to help them polish their work so it is the best we can make it. My goal is always to make the book sound just like the author, only better.

  3. says

    I love editing, especially working with new writers to help them polish their books to the point that they are publishable. Although I have run into some clients that are a pain in the…er…neck, most of the authors I work with have been delightful. I wouldn’t give up the editing part of my business for anything!

    • says

      Debra Stang,

      That’s the way I feel. :)

      Yes, of course there are a few difficult clients. That’s true of any profession.

      Thanks so much for joining the discussion. It’s interesting to hear how other writers feel about editing.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing that Sharon.

      I actually really enjoy doing both. When I have both types of work, I find that there’s always something interesting to work on. The combination seems to keep me sharp. :)

  4. says

    Some days it’s better to be a writer. Other days it’s better to be an editor. And plenty of days when you’d rather be lounging on a beach without any work. :)

    Similar to you and Lillie, I enjoy polishing others’ work, especially if there’s a really good story or it’s a thought-provoking piece; sometimes it just needs a few more touches to make it really stand out.

    The only time I’ve had issues with editing is when it’s a migraine on paper, and when I’ve seen my own work slaughtered, ruined, trashed, destroyed and/or misconstrued by an inconsiderate editor. For example, a small-town newspaper editor took a simple story I wrote about a police captain’s award ceremony and turned it into a way to get back at a childhood rival.. by adding in a paragraph when the captain received a DUI 20+ years earlier.

    To paraphrase Cathy, I shortly decided to hang up my reporter’s notebook after that.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Craig.

      Ugh. What that editor did goes beyond simply being difficult and moves into unethical behavior.

      Of course, there are bad people who are editors just as there are bad people in any profession.

      Was there any indication that the editor might be like that? In other words, when you read the publication could you see that a lot of it was spiteful? Or was this just an isolated incident?

      At any rate, what the editor did was no reflection on your writing skills. Although, if the piece was bylined, I imagine you took some heat.

  5. says

    I LOVE editing—especially for highly technical people who write well but just struggle with communicating their complex ideas in a readable, non-stuffy way. Actually, one of my favorite clients was not a good writer at all, and he knew it. My deliverables were always bloody red, but he was so appreciative of the value I brought to his work and never let so much as an email go out the door to one of his clients without running it by me. Helping my clients look their best in front of their clients/audiences, that’s what I call a rewarding job! :)

    • says

      I think it’s normal to be a little nervous when someone else looks at your work. The important thing is that you appreciate the result. Just remember, your editors are human too. :)

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