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5 Things You Never Say to an Editor

Updated on October 30, 2015

In a previous article, I gave advice for young writers just starting college. One of the things I recommended was to always get your work edited by someone who isn’t you. When you do ask someone to edit what you’ve written, be it a professor, the writing center, or another student, there are a few things you should never ever say.

1. “I haven’t looked at this since I wrote it.”

So you’re saying you didn’t bother to edit this yourself first? So you’re lazy then? Yeah no. Take it back.

You should always be your own editor at first. Make sure you go over everything yourself. We all make mistakes, and some of those mistakes are more obvious than others. That’s why it’s important to self review first so when you reach out for help, the editor can focus on helping you with the mistakes you missed or didn’t understand, rather than pointing out every time you misspelled a word or used a comma splice. It gets old fast. The editor will get done a lot faster if you go through everything yourself first.

2. “It’s just a different style than yours.”

Stop. No.

There is a difference between stylistic choices and bad grammar and sentence structure, and you can bet we can tell the difference.

If something is unclear, awkwardly worded, or just flat out confusing, then it is unclear, awkward, or confusing. It’s not a style choice; it’s something you need to fix. Keep in mind that things always sound better in your head. It could make perfect sense to you, but it could be confusing to anyone else. A way to prevent this is to read what you write out loud. You’d be amazed how different the same sentence sounds out loud versus in your head.

3. “This is terrible.”

Why are you making me read something you know is crap? Have more confidence in your work. If you are really struggling, it’s okay to say you are really struggling, but don’t brush off all your hard work as being terrible. It’s not fair to you. “Terrible” isn’t constructive and editing is all about constructive criticism.

Now if you say your writing is terrible just so the editor will praise it: stop. Just. Stop.

4. “But....but.....but!”

If you go to someone for advice, actually listen to them. Don’t interrupt or push back every time the editor tells you something needs fixing. The editor isn’t always right, and you certainly don’t have to make every change they tell you to, but you’ll get more out of the session if you shut up and let the editor speak. You can certainly ask questions and clarify things when necessary, but the editor should be the one doing most of the talking.

5. “Can you hurry up?”

If something comes up and you need to leave, then that’s different. Rushing someone because you are bored or impatient is not. If we’re going to take the time to help you, then give us the time we need to do a good job. You’re just cheating yourself otherwise. Hopefully whoever you go to for help knows how fast or slow they are and will tell you how long they will need. If not, you can always ask ahead of time. It’s also important to let the editor know what kind of help you are looking for: if you’re basically done and just want someone else to give it a once over vs. needing someone to really go over each line carefully. That will also impact how long it takes to edit. Be sure you aren't waiting until the day the thing is due to ask for help either.

Hopefully these tips will prove useful the next time you seek out help with your writing. Good luck!

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