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There’s something about editors that scares people. I’m not sure why. We’re a happy-go-lucky, cuddly bunch…

Okay, maybe not so much. We do tend toward exacting standards, a martinet demeanor, and fanatical grammar tendencies. Warm and fuzzy we’re not, but there are ways to safely approach the savage editing animal.

To understand editors is to realize that they aspire to perfection in the final product. (If you’ve ever dealt with a perfectionist, you know that they are perpetually frustrated.) Editors want to make sure the writers say what they want and the readers get what they need. This isn’t always easy when you factor in money, time, and personalities. 

When approaching the untamed editor, a writer should make the effort to soothe things (read as “meet some of the editor’s needs”). 

  • A writer should make sure the piece is in the correct format and as clean as the writer can get it. (Do not present something handwritten in pencil on note paper; you might lose your head!)

  • Make yourself open to the editor’s suggestions. There is nothing more exhausting for an editor than a writer who fights over every little word and comma. 

  • Writers should reveal some of their concerns with the piece. Maybe one section is too awkward; maybe the spelling stinks; maybe commas cover the paper like reverse snow. Editors respect writers who can clue them in on things to watch out for.

  • Both writers and editors should agree on and understand the process. Editors should be able to make minor changes but let writer implement any suggestions for major changes.

Sure, an editor might still be a bit rough and grumble after all this, but chances are there will be no blood.