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Don’t Fear the Editor: An Expert Support Team in One Professional

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 by Lisa S.

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You’re a marketing expert, not a writer. In any case, whatever your job title, odds are good that you don’t exactly look forward to handing your writing over to an editor. Maybe it’s the memory of a particular red-pen-wielding third-grade teacher, or a particularly embarrassing typo in an important presentation. Or maybe you’re just a human being who likes to get things right the first time.

I get it. As a writer and an editor, I’ve spent a lot of time on both sides of that often-fraught relationship. To bring my most creative self to my writing, I need to lock my inner editor in her cage. And to do my best work as an editor, I must channel my inner perfectionist—the one who derives inordinate pleasure from a perfectly loaded dishwasher.

(Maybe I should have titled this piece “Editors: Not actually as neurotic as we seem.”)

Hmm. Let’s start over.

When it’s working, the relationship between writer and editor can be incredibly rewarding for both parties. Think of your editor as containing multitudes—an extensive team of experts devoted to helping your work shine. Just a few of the roles we take on in the course of the job:

  • Midwife: Especially on larger projects, editors help clients gestate and shape ideas, guiding them through the writing process and toward the births of healthy finished pieces.
  • Coach: Sometimes you need a good pep talk, and sometimes you need to be told to “drop and gimme twenty.” A good editor knows how to motivate each writer in ways that get results.
  • Architect: Are there holes in your argument? Too much space allotted for points A and B, with C given short shrift? An editor views each written piece in its entirety, making sure it’s complete, well balanced, and structurally sound.
  • Ventriloquist: Maybe you know what you want to say, but not how to say it. The best editors have empathetic superpowers—the ability to refine and rework each piece of a client’s writing so it reflects the writer’s voice (or, in the case of marcom writing, the voice of the business or organization).
  • Butler, housekeeper, polisher of the silver: This is where the dishwasher jujitsu comes in. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, adherence to your chosen style guide: We polish each line until everything shines.

And if none of that works? You have my permission to imagine your editor much as I am now, in a ripped T-shirt and old yoga pants, hunched over my laptop with a cold cup of tea at my side. No red pen in sight. My hair’s sticking up a bit on one side, where I’ve been pulling at it as I think. I’m going over each word of my favorite client’s latest work one more time, helping to make it the best it can be.

is a member of the Content Bureau editorial team.

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