Six Reasons to Work with an Editor

When I was 18 years old I published my first article. I remember the thrill of opening the slim envelope with the magazine logo in the corner, rather than the SASE I’d enclosed with my query. I was ecstatic. There may also have been some jumping and screaming.

A few months later I held the slick magazine in my hands and ran my finger over my byline. Then I read my story about hurdling one more time. (Yes, I wrote about running back then too.)

The article had changed some since my initial submission, but I didn’t care. Editing is often a side benefit to publication and I knew to expect it because the editor had warned me in advance.  Her letter was so encouraging I kept it.

Wasn’t that a helpful and encouraging letter? Since then I’ve worked with many more editors and I’ve learned something from each of them, even the one who lopped off the ending to make an article fit. Here are six reasons why I like working with an editor:

  1. They set word count restrictions.Yes, it can be painful to cut content, but it’s a discipline that almost always results in better prose.
  2. They catch mistakes. When we write, we’re so close to the material we become myopic – blind to mistakes that might be obvious if we were reading someone else’s words. Editors keep us from looking foolish.
  3. They improve our craft. While most editors don’t give the level of feedback I received from Dana, I’ve learned a lot by comparing published pieces to initial drafts. It’s always been worth the effort. In fact, I’ve gotten to know some editor’s preferences well enough to see my stories run unchanged.
  4. They lend credibility. Publications with professional editors have standards to meet and reputations to uphold. It’s like a brand. That reputation carries over to color your work in the eyes of the reader.
  5. They have good ideas. They look at your material with fresh eyes and can make observations and recommendations that you hadn’t considered. Also, when you’ve established an ongoing relationship with an editor they come to you with new ideas. It’s gratifying to hear an editor say, “I knew you’d be perfect for this story.”
  6. They provide positive feedback. Every editor I’ve worked with has offered praise from time to time, like a positive performance review. One editor, now retired, used to send a simple email with the words, “well done.” Isn’t that a nice thing to say to a writer?

Do you have experiences working with an editor, good or bad?

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  • This is great. When I first started blogging, I wrote “for me” and ignored all my journalism classes and PR classes… I would refuse to capitalize when I should have etc etc… then I realized it just looked sloppy… I would love to work with an editor on my basic content… good stuff!!!

  • Ah, the irony of blogging about editors, since most blogs (including this one) don’t use an editor.

  • Good post, Jill.
    I often speak to writers and people hoping to build a writing career. The first thing I stress is to find an editor you trust/admire and build a relationship. That goes for editors, too! CAM