Why every writer needs an editor

Even the best writers need a second pair of eyes. Here are some reasons editors rock.

Jason Konopinski is a funny guy.

He’s even funnier when he uses words like “ding-danged,” as he did in a recent Facebook post.

To quote: “Bloggers, for all that is good and holy, COPYEDIT YOUR DING-DANGED POSTS.”

While that status update sparked some great chatter around “writers vs. authors” and whether any monkey with a typewriter can publish a book these days, it boiled down to one undeniable fact: Writers—all writers—need editors.

Blame your brain

According to The National Geographic, our brains are hardwired to make sense of what we see, hear, smell, touch and taste. And, t’s hardwired to fill in missing pieces with whatever our expectations suggest should be there.

It’s evolution, baby. And it makes it very difficult to edit one’s own work.

That’s why those “if you can read this gobbledygook …” posts are so much fun. When you attempt to self-edit, your brain automatically relies on hundreds of thousands of years of wiring. Nine times out of 10 your brain will “see” your grammar, spelling or verbiage as correct, even if it isn’t. Your brain already knows what it’s looking for; it wrote it in the first place!

It’s not that hard to counteract these unconscious brain corrections. One little trick I use is to read my work backwards and from bottom to top. This is a great way to see spelling errors and the like, because your mind isn’t making sense of these seemingly random words. However, it doesn’t help you correct odd turns of phrase, or things such as punctuation errors.

Mistakes cost money

That said, there are many other reasons why a great editor is a treasure to have.

MarketingProfs shared a fascinating tidbit from the United Kingdom. After a spelling error was corrected at tightsplease.co.uk, the online retailer’s revenue per visitor doubled. In this case, poorly written copy clearly registered, consciously or not, as the potential for shoddy business practices.

An experienced editor understands everything has a voice, and whether you write for a brand, magazine, newspaper or corporate blog, he/she will know that voice intimately and ensure continuity of that voice.

This is extremely important as your loyal customers and readers will expect consistent, quality content. They won’t appreciate The National Enquirer if they expect The New York Times.

What an editor brings to the table

  • Editors watch out for the basics, such as awkward run-on sentences, grammatical and spelling errors, and other run-of-the-mill writing issues. They also look for the overall structure of the piece, such as flow and readability. You might have buried the lead or mixed metaphors. Your third paragraph might be more suitable as your opener. Yes, your editor might change your work. If you can’t deal with that you shouldn’t be writing.
  • Editors keep their eyes peeled for accuracy, fairness, redundancy and taste. Your editor will either fact check your work or ask you to provide links to quoted articles. Of course, you should already check and recheck your work prior to submitting it to your editor. Pay special attention to people’s names and titles.
  • An editor’s goal is to protect the writer (you) and by extension, the project or organization. A good editor will read through the eyes of the audience, and will never assume the audience knows what you’re talking about. If you make a bold, sweeping statement, expect the editor to challenge it. Be prepared to back it up with statistics/proof.

I understand writers are human beings who make typos and other mistakes. I want people to have fun with language, inject life into their writing, or even break a few old-school grammar rules. Most of us write as we speak these days, and none of us speak like our fifth grade grammar workbooks. But it seems like these days we see more quantity over quality. No matter the pace of the world we live in today, quality still matters.

Lindsay Bell is the content director at Arment Dietrich. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

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