Your Editor is Always Right


Your editor is always right. You heard me. I’m not talking about niggling little punctuation problems, word usage, or even misspellings. All of that is considered copyediting, and you should have paid attention in school so most of it wouldn’t happen in the first place. I’m talking about the comments. Most editors use track changes in MS Word. So pretend you’ve gone through the copyediting part of your manuscript and clicked on the Accept Change button. That leaves the comments. The little ones in the right margin that can drive a writer nuts.

You’ll see something like this in a blue box:

Comment (U62) Again, why? This
is not a clear motivation.

Or:

Comment (U58) This should have
been much clearer earlier . . . because
then her march/journey would be
much more purposeful.

Do not get yourself in high dudgeon and send an email. “What do you mean? It’s perfectly clear in chapter 4, where she mentions it.” Or, “You missed the point, It’s explained on page 13!”

Maybe she did miss it. She is still right. “What?” you say. Yep, she’s right. No matter what you think, if your editor says what you’ve written is not clear, it is not. If a professional reader such as your editor didn’t get it, your other readers won’t either.

I’m not suggesting that the editors of the world don’t miss things, they do. Keep in mind, if they do it inadvertently, your readers do it on purpose. Sad to say, most readers are skimmers. They’ll get to a paragraph that looks long and skip down to the next break. You know which paragraphs I’m talking about, The Ones That Look Boring. Or they’ll read a sentence or a piece of dialog and assume in their mind what should logically follow and skip to the next sentence.

I know what you’re thinking. How dare they? Trust me, they dare. So get in there and make sure it’s clear. If it’s important, reinforce it, and leave no doubt in your reader’s mind. And don’t forget, if it’s not important, cut it. Cutting is the easiest fix of all.

Sometimes, your editor will write a comment that has confused you. Bear in mind that the confusion started with your manuscript. Go back, review the noted section, and you’ll likely find the problem. If you find that your editor flubbed it somehow, go back and enhance/clarify the problem area anyway. You’ll be a better writer for it.

Whatever you do, don’t agonize over changes. Make them and move on. After all, they are only words, and you have plenty of words, right? If you love the magic of your prose and can’t stand to press the delete button, cut and save it to a “little darlings” file. I used to have one of these and didn’t use a single line in another story, so I deleted it. But if it makes you feel better, go ahead.

Just remember, your editor is always right. Accept it.

Oh, and if you think you don’t need an editor, God help you.



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