Everybody Needs an Editor

I spend most of my professional time as a tech editor these days. I was writing a casual piece when someone I know online poked at me to point out an error in the piece after I had published it. I made a note to correct it and then went on with my day.

In discussing it with another friend, she commented, “Weren’t you offended that the person sent a correction? Or were you embarrassed that you posted something with an error?”

I just laughed it off because it was a casual conversation, but as I got to thinking about it, I thought it deserved a more serious answer. In reality, no, I was not offended. In that particular case, the person was correct. Neither was I embarrassed. Why should I be? It is a mistake to assume that editors necessarily apply professional editing skills to their own casual work. The piece in question was on a personal blog.

More than that, however, there is no writer or editor so good that they could not benefit from another’s editorial skills. It’s rather like the old saw about the lawyer who works for himself has a fool for a client. We all have blind spots, things we miss, or things that seem very clear to ourselves that may not be to a reader.

I put this out there because it is not too unusual for the newer writer to be offended when someone suggests edits to a piece. It is as if writing is a math problem they solved incorrectly rather than an art with, especially if you write in English, some confoundedly difficult rules to follow. There’s no need to be offended or hurt. The best writers in the world often praise their editors. They’re correct to do so.

Do you know the editor’s actual job?

It’s to make the author look utterly brilliant. The smart author knows this.