3 types of writers that drive editors nuts

Few professional relationships are closer than the relationship between writers and editors. A good editor can be your mentor, your safety net, your confidante and your friend.

Small things, however, can quickly erode the relationship. When the connection between writer and editor sours, it’s a misery for both parties involved.

Whether you’re a full-time writer or you’re looking to pick up writing as a side gig, it’s important to establish a solid rapport with your editor early on. Fortunately, that’s an easy task if you keep the editor’s pain points in mind.

Here are the three types of writers that drive editors bonkers, along with tips for how not to become one of them. Steer clear of these bad habits, and you’ll stand a better chance of getting on your editor’s good side and staying there.

Writers who turn in sloppy copy

Why it drives editors nuts

Few things irritate editors more than getting a piece riddled with errors. Editors are busy people, and they live their entire life on a deadline. They don’t have time to mop up a piece teeming with mistakes.

A few typos are forgivable. But a piece full of errors is the hallmark of a writer who has little pride in his work. Your editor has devoted her entire career to mastering the art of writing well and helping others do the same. She has little patience for writers who don’t take pride in their craft.

Don’t be this guy

The solution is simple: Read your work several times before you submit it. Better yet, have someone else read it, or read it aloud to a friend. Then, go back and double-check every fact and every name spelling.

Inevitably, a few small typos are likely to slip by. That’s OK. Just make sure your copy isn’t rife with misspellings, grammatical goofs and factual errors.

Writers who resist editing

Why it drives editors nuts

Editors edit. It’s their job. To ask an editor not to edit is like asking a fish not to swim.

So, you can imagine how editors get peeved with writers who insist their work is flawless and should be exempt from the editing process. Some writers will call up their editor after their work is published and argue with him over every change made to the story. (Seriously, this happens.)

Obviously, an editor should call you before making an edit that could potentially change the meaning of a sentence. And, he shouldn’t rewrite the piece entirely without consulting you. (That’s where the “mutual respect” part comes in.)

However, remember that editors are the gatekeepers of their publications, and they are ultimately responsible for everything that gets published. It’s their prerogative to make whatever changes necessary to prepare the piece for print.

Don’t be this guy

Don’t just tolerate the editing process. Embrace it. When you notice she made changes to the story, get curious and ask why. Show that you’re willing to improve and you want to learn.

Sure, it’s your writing, and you take pride in it. That’s good. However, resist every impulse to get defensive, and learn how to take corrections gracefully. Remember, you and the editor are on the same team.

Writers who don’t meet deadline

Think of a publication as an assembly line. At the front of the line is you, the writer. When you finish a piece, it goes to the editor, who maybe hands it off to her editor, who then hands it off to the design department, and so on. For the publication to come out on time, each department needs to hit its deadlines.

Remember what I said about editors living life on a deadline? It’s true. And few things aggravate them more than being behind schedule because a writer didn’t turn her work in on time.

Don’t be this guy

Be serious about meeting your deadlines. When your editor asks when he can have the piece, give yourself a buffer. It’s better to give a later ETA and turn in the story before deadline than give your editor an earlier date and fail to deliver.

Of course, delays do happen. A key source for a story isn’t returning your calls, and you’re having trouble tracking down a backup source. Editors understand this if you tell them in advance. The minute you suspect you may not be able to make deadline, let your editor know. The sooner, the better. You can earn brownie points by giving her a sampling of what you do have so far. This will show that you’ve been working on the story, not goofing off.

Your turn

What tricks have you learned for keeping your editors happy? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Photo credit: Gratisography


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