Editing Tips #7: How to get on your editor’s good side

For my 7th article on editing tips, I’d like to talk about things editors love to see and things that really frustrate us. We talk to each other, so you don’t want to develop a reputation as unprofessional, difficult, or just not very good.

Do:

  • Read your entire manuscript from first to last word several times. Fix any issues to the best of your ability.
  • Run a spelling and grammar checker. Also, turn on the feature that underlines errors. This will detect extra (or missing) spaces, missing punctuation, and other formatting issues your eye might miss. Note: the spelling and grammar checker is often wrong, but it is good at picking up formatting errors. Use it judiciously.
  • Have someone else read your work before you turn it in (if at all possible).
  • Review the style/submission guidelines and formatting requirements of the publication, company, or line, and make sure you follow them. If there aren’t any guidelines, consider emailing your editor about any particulars you should be aware of.
  • Use appropriate spelling and usage for your location. In America, use American spelling; in the UK, British spelling; and so on.
  • Let your editor know if you are running into problems, might be late, need more time, or about any other issues. It’s rare for us to be upset about things like this, but you must inform us in a timely manner. You earn points for being communicative and easy to work with; it’s not about being perfect.
  • Review changes and suggestions. Take note of any trends or tendencies an editor points out.

Don’t:

  • Use passive voice. Ever. It’s always bad writing and makes you look bad.
  • Use weird fonts.
  • Use 2 spaces after each period. This is wrong. It’s not an opinion. If you do it, you are wrong and should get over it. If you did this on a cold submission, there’s a strong possibility you will be rejected, even if everything else is perfect. If you are doing work for hire, your editor will groan.
  • Accept the tracked changes made by your editor without reading them. You don’t improve as a writer, might be frustrated by changes you don’t agree with, and piss us off.
  • Ignore wordcount for the assignment. Shoot for no more than +/- 10% over or under the request. If they say 3000 words, try to be between 2700-3300. If they give a range, try not to go over the upper limit of the range.
  • Get angry about requests, changes, or observations. Most editors are not mean and are not going out of our way to upset you. Some of us are nicer than others, but that’s true in any field. Please feel free to discuss a change, but please don’t yell at us, write nasty emails, or go above our heads to the publisher (they probably already know).
  • Submit a rough draft, WIP, or any manuscript that isn’t complete to your editor unless they’ve asked for one.

Have any editor pet peeves I didn’t cover? Mention them in your comments.

About Eytan Bernstein

40. Bay Area-based writer/editor/RPG designer.
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