Does Everybody Need an Editor?

RH, who has edited a number of my books, recently noted in an e-mail to me, ?Everybody needs an editor!?

Copywriters, magazine writers, newspaper reporters, and book authors published by traditional publishing houses all have editors.

But self-published book authors, e-book authors, e-zine writers, and bloggers usually don?t: what they write goes straight from their PC to the reader, without being vetted by a third party.

I?ve often heard blogging enthusiasts derisively refer to ?edited content? when speaking of traditional publishing.

But is editing bad? I?ve always thought of editing as ?quality control? for the written word. And as a rule, give me good writing over bad any day.

What do you think? Do you prefer having your writing edited? Or left alone?

Would you rather read blogs and other ?unedited? writings? Or magazines and other formats where the text you are reading has passed through an editor?s ?quality inspection??


51 thoughts on “Does Everybody Need an Editor?

  • I’ve worked with many editors over the years (including you, Bob) and the final product has almost always been better. That’s not to say that EVERYONE needs an editor. But I suspect most people’s published writings would be much better with one.

    (Editor’s note: Clumsy last sentence.)

  • Edited = better.

    Self-editing is incredibly difficult, even for the most talented writer. If anything, the blogospere only reinforces this point. Out of the x million blogs in existence, 99.9% are utterly unreadable. (And I say this as a devoted blog reader.)

    The 0.1% that rise to the top are generally written by good writers with strong voices and interesting viewpoints who can get by without editing. No doubt the quality of their writing would improve with editing, but the costs (both in time and money) aren’t justified.

  • I work as technical writer for a small business, and we don’t have any editor, which means I need to do both jobs myself to ensure the quality of our manuals’ content. I must say that I could sure do with another person here, since self-editing is really hard. Does anyone need any? I don’t know, but it’s never a bad thing to get someone else to review your works, I think. One’s own eye is never the best one to edit a text, especially after having had the nose buried in it for weeks or months.

  • I’ve always found outside editing helpful – “a fresh pair of eyes.” Editing requires a different mindset than drafting or composing, and even when you as a writer make that mental shift, as you must for any revising, the echoes of your composing still linger in your brain. That makes it easy to miss problems.

    Having someone else read your stuff, even if she isn’t a professional editor, gives a different perspective that’s invaluable.

  • Editing is crucial to good writing. Writers who aspire to greatness know that. It’s why today’s author services companies are slowly getting popular — they offer editing, proofreading, and page layout to authors wishing to self-publish. As a writer myself, I am acutely aware of the need for professional editing of my work — I am the worse person to edit or proof my own writing. I’m good, but not good enough for myself. A fresh pair of eyes is always best.

  • Bob –

    One of the first things that was hammered into me when starting out in journalism is that everyone needs and editor. This goes for even the top writers at marquee newspapers and magazines in the US and globally.

    Editing is the occupational hazard of writing. And writing is learned craft. We typically don’t write as we speak and speak as we write. That said, in terms of proficiency, some need more and some need less editing depending on writing experience.

    Ultimately, as long as the editing is constructive, and not carried out just for the sake of personal change, I believe and have seen proof that the end result product is indeed better the majority of the time with a good editor.

  • Personally, I find it very difficult to be objective when re-reading my own content — and much easier to edit someone else’s copy objectively.
    Also, I find it very difficult to spot typos and errors in my own copy – I think it’s because I know what’s coming when I’m proofing it and thus do it too quickly.

    I often find unedited content – particularly blogs – to be difficult to read because they lack editing.

  • Hi Bob – Great question. We are conducting an industry survey on writers of white papers and so far the results reveal that slightly more than 30 percent of writers send their work to editor. I think the results of our survey of more than 300 writers reveals a problem in the industry. All the best! – Mike

  • I’ve always had a big problem. EDITORIAL PARANOIA” Even in professional situations. As a result, in hugging my babies to myself for protection, I’ve had to become a better self-editor. Some of that has worked. I think, as in any relationship, the two (or more) have to be in sync. If you find someone like that, sing from South Pacific.. “Once you have found her/him never let her/him go-o-o-o-o.”

  • It probably comes down to a metter of your self-image; if you have a strong self-image, you’re not threatened by the prospect of “being edited”. If you have some deep-seated doubts about yourself, you may find the idea of someone pointing out your “errors” to be unsettling.

    I’d also be quick to point out that some people probably mean something different than what we (writers) mean by “editing”; I have found that some people mistakenly equate “editing” with “censoring”.

  • I totally agree that everyone needs editing, but I prefer to read blogs. Why? I get a wider perspective of an issue, especially with blog comments; it’s more timely; it’s less expensive; it’s quicker; and usually it’s much more human.

  • If you could get rid of the last 6 spam posts, this is a great discussion topic!

    I personally would like to know if there are any editors out there that would be willing to look at articles prior to publishing. I think it’d be a great online service, and they could charge something like a couple dollars per every 2,000 characters or something. They can even disclaim that they can’t be held liable for errors, omissions, and oversights (to a point).

    I’d be willing to pay $5 or $6 for my current article, which has 5,440 characters. Not that I’m going to, because I’d like to get my article out today, but I’m sure it won’t be my last one (I get the urge to write one about every 6 months or so).

    Online editing anyone?

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