Seasoned writers understand the importance of a highly-skilled editor's work. Nonetheless, not all editors are the best communicators—and some writers are not the greatest content developers. Period.
If you're a new writer in the industry, this can be quite confusing, very frustrating, and a leading cause for you to question your skillset as a developing writer.
Don't give up! Knowledge is key here.
Let's examine the role of an editor and highlight some of the true reasons you're getting a bit angry with your fellow team member's actions.
Every editor has had their experiences with freelance writers who expect their written content to be printed “as-is.”
Editors know that if they were to grant writers that request, the publication would be uniformed, inconsistent and the editorial standards would lower.
Sadly, the truth of the matter is that writing the perfect copy is not even the goal of many professional writers. Most are not familiar with a particular publication's punctuation rules or style. Some disregard the importance of grammatical and punctuation errors, even though they can do it correctly, leaving the editors to correct and find the errors.
So, there's always a little work to be done by an editor.
Content Submitted is Printed "As-is": A Very Rare Event
Expect some small revisions.
There is no precise standard for punctuation or any known “general writing style”. Each publication has its particular house style that outside writers must conform to. The major publications have similar sets of typographic rules, which differ greatly from the rules printed from the same office or elsewhere of other publications.
For example, a particular magazine may have a rule to institute direct quotations, in a paragraph, with a colon. Other publications use a comma; others use a colon and a dash. Others use a dash alone. Freelance writers who write for a particular publication consistently, are likely to become used to its editorial style and conform to his or her copy accordingly. Those who are careless disregard such details.
Copy editors must perfect the writer’s copy- from the editor’s perspective- before submitting it to the composing room. This makes the printer’s task. A lot of editors exclude particular words or phrases from their column. One editor of a magazine I wrote for was taught to exclude the phrases “as though” and always replaced it with “as if.” Every careful editor has their particulars and reasons based on preferences, rhetorical rules, or observance of proper use. Their edits are made to suit their tastes.
All Content is Subject to Critique
If you're a seasoned writer, you're aware of this (and appreciate the room for improvement). However, many new writers have no experience in this area and become quite hard on themselves—and highly frustrated.
The general rule is that no editor will print any copy exactly as it is. It is more likely that the proofreader while correcting the proof, will notice differences from the established publication’s house style. Every manuscript is subject to critique and revision of some form. So the real question is: “How much revision is justified, and how many editorial changes should be made without consulting the writer?”
In theory, an editor should always consult with the writer and have their approval when revising the content. However, in reality, the editor or editorial team rarely consults the writer. The editor makes the final call. Sometimes regular contributors get the chance to read their proofs. Some editors give them the freedom to accept or reject minor changes. Mostly the editor does not consult changes with the writer and use his or her judgment in each case.
A Good Editor’s Judgment Guides Their Task
Editorial revisions always include and are led by the good judgment of the editor and the changes they make. Small adjustments should not be disputed by the writer, such as:
Various/ alternative style faults
The editor should indeed remember his responsibility to the writer. Changes made by the editor usually can not be seen by the writer until the article is published.
No general rule can be made to cover a wide variety of cases. Every manuscript is different.
The rule of thumb is that an editor should not make changes that are not essential, to make as little changes as possible, and to add only if needed. Ultimately, the editor should try to see things as the writer would see things; they should only make changes they think the writer would make if the roles were reversed.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
The way an editor handles a copy shows the difference between awesomeness and awfulness.
Let's target our reasons for getting angry at the editor—or the most solid reason for our disappointments. Here are some clear actions that a poor editor tends to execute:
Randomly slashing and cutting content that spoils the sense of the copy;
Changing the message that the writer is trying to convey;
Neglecting to use quality time to thoroughly read through content;
Not communicating to the writer properly.
These actions should definitely be the reasons our anger is provoked—not because of good improvements or requests for revisions, but the neglect and message modification. For this reason, a good writer should never simple rely on their editor. It should always remain a writer's goal to present the best copy possible; brief, strong, and organized. Communication is always key and a good editor should always take responsibility in the area of explaining any necessary revisions.
Good Editors Should Be Praised—and Celebrated!
A good editorial makes modifications here and there, creating strategic changes with concise sentences that replace lengthy paragraphs and retain the sequence of ideas; they rarely injure a manuscript, and ultimately makes improvements—not total makeovers.
Writers will not protest careful, judicious, and intelligent editing. If your editor is highly skilled and comes to you with meaningful revisions, a sincere "thank you" is well deserved for the enhancement (and time).
Happy writing—or editing!