Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How Much Does Editing Matter?

I just received a newsletter from a local nonprofit group, and was absolutely horrified by the editing mistakes I found... and I wasn't even looking for problems. I was just reading it to see what they were doing. Clearly, they are not in the business of editing.

I don't work for them (well, I work with them on projects.) Editing their newsletters or press releases is not my job. And yet, I'm angry that someone actually got paid to send out such a poorly written and poorly laid out communication.

There are plenty of books like that as well, many that have typos and small copyedit mistakes. Sometimes I cringe to find ginormous blunders in the editing, and wonder How in the World stuff gets through the system without someone catching those problems. You know what I mean. We've all scratched our heads at some of these "glitches."

As writers, we work very hard and write to the best of our abilities, but it's very very hard to edit your own work with an objective eye. You're too close to the writing to see where the mistakes lay.

Editors and Copyeditors are essential to the publishing process, for books, for magazines, for newspapers.... and yes, even for newsletters. 

I loved working with my editor on my first novel, Unfolding the Shadows. Meghan was wonderful at pointing out places that needed expansion, or spots that needed to be cut out completely, or when I used the same word 26 times in the first five chapters... oops... but my book was so much better because of her input.

I'm working at the moment as an editor for a woman who's written a women's fiction novel, who thought she was on her final draft when she brought it to me. She's since revised it substantially with my input and suggestions, because there was so much that she "knew" about her characters but wasn't showing the reader. A good editor can get the writer to expand and show the reader things that the writer may take for granted. I'm meeting with her again tomorrow to hand back the last few chapters... she's almost ready to start the query process, and even though it's not "my" book, I take a certain amount of pride in the fact that I've helped her make her book better.

Have you worked with an editor for your writing? Do you appreciate it when an editor gives you advice or points out mistakes? Do you cringe when you read something that clearly needed an editor's touch?

What's the most glaring editing error you've ever found in a published work?


  1. I'm penny-ante on the editing scale of impact, but I always wanted my business work to be correct. In her career my daughter would call me (still does) about business writing. I think I've finally convinced her to drop the adjectives.

    1. Every bit of writing should matter. It used to drive my husband nuts when he worked at a previous company and smart people (engineers) would send out the dumbest emails and written proposals. It doesn't take that much longer to read it through and edit - and it makes people know you care enough to do that. Even the smartest of people can sound inane in their writing.

  2. Yes, yes and yes. I edit my work, someone else edits it, then my editor edits it and even then I've caught mistakes. Perfection is a big ask when you're looking at upwards of 100,000 words. But we strive for it, right!

  3. I once saw a character's name switched with another character. That was confusing as hell

  4. Okay, there is a distinct dearth of editing in the press releases I've been receiving at the magazine lately - the one I went through today not only had errors, but forgot to mention the price of the item being featured. How do you know what a good deal it is if they don't tell you the price? I had to go to the website. Argh! I mean, I would've looked there anyway, but really.

  5. I've worked with dramaturgs and mentors for playwriting. It is a frustrating hellish and fantastic experience.


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