Editing is something everyone needs, but very few appreciate until it’s either too late, or we’ve long since failed. I honestly never appreciated editing until I had been doing it a good long while. When I did, it changed the way I thought about writing, as well as made me rethink the bigger picture of how great work is and always had been made.
There are endless things we can do right when we write, but the wrong ones all have in common that we’re doing them alone.
The following are some of the less appreciated reasons for why we all need an editor, which I myself and those I’ve worked with have learned the hard way before we came together. I write this with the hope that someone else can learn from the mistakes and triumphs of countless others, which necessarily begins by changing the way we think about the relationship between editing and writing.
(Note — If you’ve already realized that you’re in dire need, or are working on something important, I recommend contacting me as soon as you can. I get booked up pretty quickly, and in the short time it takes to read this, I may no longer be available to help.)
Table of Contents
- 1. Nothing Great is Written Alone
- 2. More than Writing Needs an Editor
- 3. We all Need to Write Well
- 4. The Best Help Needs to Be Bought
- 5. Our Competition Already Has an Editor or Two
- 6. It Costs More Not to Hire an Editor
- 7. The Best Writers are Directors, not Scribes
- 8. We’re Taught to Write Poorly, if at All
- 9. Writing Poorly is Easier than Ever
- 10. Writing Well is Harder than Ever
- 11. Writing Well Requires Work We Ourselves Can’t Do
- 12. We Need Confidentiality
- 13. We Speak English as a Second Language, Even When it’s Our Only Language
- 14. Editing is a Job, but Likely not Our Own
- 15. Writing is Magical, but Not Mystical
- 16. Great Editors Save Us from the Poor Editors in Us All
- 17. Editors Know What Editing Is
- 18. Editors Know the Secret to Writing Well
- 19. Editors Make Us Fit to Write
- 20. Writing Well is Editing
- 21. Hiring an Editor is Easier than Ever
- About Me
- Examples of Things Relevant to Editing I’ve Worked On
1. Nothing Great is Written Alone
A great way to make any experienced author laugh is to tell them you haven’t or aren’t going to hire an editor.
We’ve all read writing we like, and in direct proportion to our esteem for it, help was necessary to make it that way. None of the best writing is the product of a single person toiling in a bubble until their torment is unleashed upon the world. Even I work with editors, and I work as an editor!
The best and brightest all have coaches, and in direct proportion to their greatness, only hire better ones in higher quantity. Everyone’s ‘secret’ to success is just that — they got the help they needed. Writing alone and unaided is writing poorly, no matter how great we think we are at it. Whether or not we believe we ourselves can do it, we’d do well to know that little — if any — of the writers we most enjoy wrote alone. We’d be the first.
Being a seasoned veteran doesn’t make writing any easier, it only means we know what to expect, we know we need help, and we know where to get it. The better we get, the harder writing actually becomes, as we’re all the more aware of what good writing looks like, and what’s necessary to achieve it. A great editor is a rare commodity in high demand for that reason, which is why I get booked up so quickly.
2. More than Writing Needs an Editor
Books, essays, articles, and the inbetween things like dissertations and reports are all familiar things we pay editors to make great, but they’re certainly not the only ones that an editor can help us with. Any form of communication, expression, or thinking needs editing to be effective. I regularly work on presentations, speeches, stories, contracts, comics, flyers, scripts, storyboards, advertisements, games, toasts, wedding proposals, apologies, negotiations, resumes, applications, and things I wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t done them. I’ve even been paid to edit emails and texts, only to be met with enthusiastic thanks for the results they produced.
Writing is an instance of this, but the point of any exchange is to affect our thoughts, actions, and motivations, even if that’s saying thanks in ways genuinely sincere. But it still takes a wealth of knowledge, skill, and experience to do any of that well, even when we’re doing it in the humblest of things, which we do more often than any other. The point of anything written isn’t for something to simply be written or expressed, but to do and accomplish things in the world. They can be as simple as bringing a smile to someone’s face, or as lofty as changing the way we all think and live, but they’re accomplished through the same means, and in precisely the same ways. Our purpose in writing is always to affect something or someone, even if that someone is ourselves.
More broadly, great editors practice Rhetoric in its many applications, which I’m admittedly only in a position to appreciate because I teach it in so many of them. If we can find one well versed in it, any time there’s an exchange between human beings of value, an editor can increase its value, and for less than it’s worth.
3. We all Need to Write Well
Whether or not we locate a large portion of our identity in it, we’re all ‘writers’, and we all need to write, whether or not we take the time to do it well. All of our lives depend in part on our writing.
I regularly work with people from all walks of life — from students to teachers to comedians to businessmen to bloggers to freelancers to speakers to illustrators to salesmen to lawyers to politicians to programmers to ‘writers’ themselves. And there hasn’t been a single person I’ve met that doesn’t face daily Rhetorical challenges that their livelihood and happiness depend on. We get fired, passed up for promotion, and fail based on the quality of our communication, and the content of our thinking when put into words. The products of our writing affect us more than their audience, as we’re the ones that have to live with them and their results.
Whether we’re getting through school, our careers, or simply life, we all now need to write, and we do well when we write well.
4. The Best Help Needs to Be Bought
Like any job, being an editor requires a certain set of knowledge and skills in high refinement to be of any value. It’s a role we have trouble casually filling because relatively few fit that description, let alone have the time and ability to apply themselves to our work when we need it.
Everyone isn’t a good editor in the same way homeless people don’t ‘decide’ to become doctors when faced with living on the street, turning things around in a puff of life-correcting smoke — there’s a lot that goes into a profession which we’re in no way equipped to exercise without years of training, trial, and investment. That’s what makes it a profession. An aptitude for editing draws those of us suited to it to develop our talents in ways everyone else by necessity will not have, and helps filter out who can authentically help us when we’re willing to put a price on our success.
We change as well when we pay to hire an editor, becoming more committed, invested, and motivated, which are all mindsets we unfortunately can’t achieve any other way. Self-management is a challenge no matter what we’re doing, but it’s easily alleviated when our projects are made more ‘real’ to us when money is on the table, and we’re helped along by someone who’s been through it countless times before.
5. Our Competition Already Has an Editor or Two
Many of my inexperienced clients come to me feeling guilty or weird, looking to me somewhat like a drug dealer, as if hiring me were somehow doing something wrong or illegal. But the truth is that most everyone we see around us flying high and free likely already has a wingman like me, and that’s why they’re so successful. It isn’t ‘cheating’ to have someone help us write a book, dissertation, essay, article, speech, story, or even a script — it’s common sense. It isn’t ‘plagiarism’ to write something alongside someone else, it’s proper technique. Writing without an editor is like going to war alone — it doesn’t matter how big we think our gun is, we’re outmanned, outgunned, and out of luck when the competition brings company. Going it alone doesn’t make us courageous, it makes us stupid, and soon to be dead because everyone else has the good sense not to.
Ignorance has a habit of making foolishness look like courage, but only imbeciles and those unaware of writing as a process don’t hire an editor. And it’s pretty hard to compete with people who already have a leg up on us in having one. That makes it all the more necessary to hire an editor in a world where everyone winning already has. Writing’s a hard enough battle without having to compete unarmed, and we always ever are in competition, as the work of others is what our own is judged against.
The surest sign of a novice in any field is believing everyone else is getting by on their own. They’re not! And if we care enough, neither should we. We need expert feedback, guidance, and craftsmanship to make anything of note, which is a rare commodity in high demand for that reason. It’s something few are trained to do, even fewer do at all well, and fewer still are in a position to help us with when we need it most. We don’t look down on an athlete for hiring a trainer, if not several, nor a business man for having employees, if not reaching out to entire firms. That’s exactly what we do when it comes to our own writing, however — assuming we aren’t merely ignorant of how writing well works.
And while we worry, everyone else is moving on with their lives, an editor in tow, and a big smile on their faces for it.
6. It Costs More Not to Hire an Editor
Writing well takes time we don’t have. It’s frequently frustrating in ways we don’t deserve. We juggle it among competing commitments and constraints that aren’t fair. And we’re always ever judged on our results, no matter how impressive our intentions.
Though we still aren’t at our best alone, it certainly takes more out of us to try. Writing without an editor is like building a barn by ourselves, or poking a beached whale hoping it’ll budge if we simply push hard enough. Both are bigger than us, and will consistently crush us if arrogance, ignorance, and stinginess compel us to call banging our head against insurmountable challenges ‘persistence’. We can take all the time in the world to try, but we still won’t succeed on our own, and we don’t get that time back. We either fail on gracefully forever, or hire help after learning a painful lesson. Writing well isn’t a noble battle of David vs Goliath, it’s like running a business — we get what we pay for, and if we’re not willing to collaborate, we’re not going to get very far.
What we write is always more valuable than whatever it costs to hire a professional to make all of our problems go away. Our time, effort, energy, and sanity are all worth something, and when most of our lives amount to just that, it’s always ever more than the price of ensuring it.
7. The Best Writers are Directors, not Scribes
There’s a big difference between writing for us and writing with us, the latter of which only experienced editors are equipped to do because it’s inherently unnatural to go about it. Editors make our own voice shine through in ways we ourselves ironically can’t, and it’s done by working with us, not over us, even if we ourselves never sing a word of it. That comes from appreciating what an author’s role in their own work actually is, and not being led astray by the many superfluous things we do when we ‘write’.
Without that appreciation, giving advice in writing is similar to being a parent asked by their kids for help with a school project — the parent usually ends up doing it all themselves, the kids are left to turn in something of reasonable quality they don’t quite understand because their little hands had no part in it, and no learning takes place for either party. Editors certainly can and at times should write for whoever they’re working with, but it’s done as a collaborator, not a dictator.
Our role as an author in creating our own work is closer to a director than a scribe. We orchestrate ideas, idioms, concepts, cultures, arguments, characters, tropes, and everything we can together from the world around us, the typing of which plays the smallest of parts. As I’ve written elsewhere, something wholly original would be entirely incomprehensible, and is typically taken as a sign of the mentally deranged, not innovation or genius. And as devoid of agency as that sounds, we always play a fundamental part in it as writers, whether or not we write a single word of it ourselves. Expecting otherwise is like faulting a director for not acting out each part in their film, editors coming in to help out with everything listed under their names in the credits. Much of the writing we value most is written this way.
When we’re paired with an editor, the voice that’s developed together is a unique one that’s better than either alone, regardless of whose lungs are pushing most of it out. It’s also one that can’t come about by any other process, and leads to results that can’t be gotten any other way.
“Let me write that for you” is subtly distinct from “let me write that with you,” however, the former being the default mode we engage with whenever we ask anyone else for help. It’s a distinction only an experienced editor can appreciate, and one that leaves both writer and editor better able after the experience.
8. We’re Taught to Write Poorly, if at All
Some of us are never taught writing. We’re left to flounder around on our own, at times prompted, but without guidance, feedback, or direction, and we usually feel like it when we write. Sometimes we feel good when we make a clever joke, and frequently resort to summarizing or referring to the popular work of others, but substance is the furthest thing from our minds when penning them because we’re winging it without any coherent idea of what writing well looks like. We’re still graded, judged, and condemned based on the quality of our work as if we did, however, without ever having been taught, or taking the time to discover what quality itself looks like — certainly not how we ourselves can make it. We’re the lucky ones.
Most of us not only are taught how to write, we’re taught how to write poorly. Persuasion, eloquence, clarity, and coherence are all vital components of any thought worth thinking, let alone words worth writing, but we’re taught to avoid them like the Bogeyman in favor of five paragraph essays, canned literary devices, and a handful of catch-phrases that have little place in academic contexts, let alone the rest of them. We’re fed countless artificial rules of grammar that exist largely to make our work easier to grade, making us fat with scholastic fodder, but light on developing the muscles necessary to write well. Our best sentences are structured as if pressed from a familiar mold, and our soundest ideas are all clichés. We don’t analyze, we don’t describe, we don’t innovate, and we wring what little value there may have been in our work dry. We craft things that are entirely ineffective. We leave our audiences not only unmoved but moving on, not only ill persuaded but now actively resistant to our aims. The only way good writing enters into our work is when we quote or refer to others that either took the time to get help out of their indoctrinated muck, or worked with others that had the privilege of never having been thrown into it.
We’re taught to focus on a made-up form of grammar so we can all avoid noticing the bigger picture of having something worth saying, let alone saying it well. It would be odd if we all didn’t need an editor when we’re outright taught to write wrong.
9. Writing Poorly is Easier than Ever
Writing poorly is not only easier than ever, it’s not a problem we’re at all trained to deal with, let alone acknowledge.
The technologies we rely on speed things up, but have a tendency to send us careening into a wall when we don’t have help at the wheel. We have ready access to automated thesaurus’ that make us motivated and able to misuse words at astonishing rates. We rely on dictionaries for artificial definitions that have little to do with the contexts actually giving our sentences meaning. If we’re informed on a topic or field in the slightest, we’re more likely to be misinformed, and go on to say similarly silly things to everyone else that knows better. There are countless rules and regulations in place, from print to publication, that present us with more opportunities for making mistakes than ever before. We have the wealth of the world at our fingertips for inspiration and research, but less means than ever to read, interpret, or find anything of value amid all the ads and noise. And meaningless information follows us around in our pockets, leaving us little time to think, and no room to escape.
Audiences are tougher than they’ve ever been as well. Many words now have specialized meanings that vary widely, even within similar groups of people, leading us all to speak in divergent directions by default. What each of us knows is as vastly different as our backgrounds, making it both necessary and unnecessary to explain certain things, as well as difficult to decide what, when, why, and for who we should. Our work is read by a greater number of people than any of us could priorly have hoped for, and is now open to an equally varied number of misunderstandings and misinterpretations that we’re none the less accountable for, despite our inherent limitations. Few know how to write well, and we’re actively taught to write poorly, making most of who we can turn to a great way to get horrible advice as well.
If finding the right words is like looking for a needle in a haystack, we now live in a world made of hay, filled with many things resembling needles, piled so high that we can’t help but roll around in it as we’re pricked from all sides. We all also have ready access to a wealth of works wonderfully written across time and space, which only make our efforts seem trite by comparison to people who devoted their entire lives to producing a scant few books. These have gone on to change the world, as well as our perception on what it means to make great work, only making it harder for any of us newcomers that would like to try.
When we write, the stakes are now higher, our means more meager, and our avenues for aid decidedly limited. Writing has only become harder as time goes on, and will only get worse the more time passes.
10. Writing Well is Harder than Ever
There was a time when little was written, let alone being read, and anything we wrote could easily number among a handful of things anyone would read throughout their entire lives. We competed with nothing, were rejected by no one, and were always well received. That time is not now, nor will it ever return.
We live in a time where more is being written than ever, by an ever-growing number of people. When we speak of anything, we’re talking among crowded company, jumping into conversations eons old, and going up against people writing in far more favorable circumstances. Little needed to be addressed when little had been written on any topic. There were few references or citations because there wasn’t much to engage with or account for. Research was simply thinking about something and asking others about it, as there was little to find on any subject around. We didn’t need to worry about a trope or narrative having been done better before because narrative itself was in its infancy. We couldn’t plagiarize if we wanted to because there weren’t many things to copy from. There was no reason to fact-check because common sense contained the only facts we had in check. Common sense itself was about all we had to work with, which made our work a lot easier.
If western philosophy is a footnote to Plato, it’s because Plato wasn’t in a position to make or need any footnotes. Now, we’re participating in traditions older than any of us, with an unprecedented number of them going on, and countless contributing to them in various forms every passing moment.
Even if that weren’t the case, writing anything worth reading would still be hard. None of our deadlines are ever far enough out. Everything takes longer than we’d like. There’s really no end to the amount of research we can conduct and material we can pull from, and it takes an expert to even know where to look. Committing is hard when we do it in a vacuum and are acutely accountable to ourselves. We know most of what we end up making is either wonderful or needs to be cut, but we’re always at a loss when deciding which is which. We rarely know what will be most effective for those reading our work, nor do they. And the longer we spend on it, the harder it becomes for us to see what we’ve written for what it is, not what we’ve poured our hearts into wishing it would be.
We can’t get away from it either. Writing may or may not be our job, but we’re paid, graded, and judged on what ends up coming out of our desperation. Most of us don’t even know what Rhetoric is, despite it dictating how most of our lives now turn out. In no small measure, we suffer when we write, and we suffer most when we don’t write well.
We can have best sellers under our belt, run our own business, have multiple degrees, and even be the utmost authority in our field, but when having to put pen to paper, or more recently finger to screen, we’re all in the same boat, and it’s always ever a leaky ship. There’s a reason many writers either commit suicide or die of stress related illness. Writing any old thing is easy, but writing well is hard.
11. Writing Well Requires Work We Ourselves Can’t Do
Hiring an editor isn’t a nicety. Our best and brightest don’t turn to them because they’re sitting on mounds of money, or enjoy throwing it away. We’re best and brightest to the extent we realize we can and do need help to make anything great.
We can’t take an outside perspective on our own work. We can’t give ourselves expert feedback, even if we’re an expert in the field. We can’t read things as another might because we’re always ever situated firmly in ourselves. We can’t react to what we’ve written without knowing full well what we were after and intending. We can’t reach beyond our own knowledge and skills. We can hardly spot a spelling error in our first lines, let alone under the sort of pressure that requires us to care.
We sometimes misspell our own names.
Experience in writing isn’t experience in editing, but we inherently can’t edit our own work in any of the ways that matter most even if it were. The longer we write, and the more it matters to us, the more entrenched we become in the typically erroneous paths we dig for ourselves through our pacing. Second opinions necessarily come second-hand, and in the case of editing, are what decide whether or not our work will be second-rate.
Writing well alone is like marrying ourselves, not only in the sense that no one does it, but that it can’t be done. Whatever we’re doing when we try, it isn’t writing well, and it will not lead to our best work, nor typically good work. It will amount to the kind of thing we ourselves are so familiar with forgetting, avoiding, and ignoring that we likely haven’t noticed we’ve done it with the grand majority of everything we’ve ever read.
12. We Need Confidentiality
We’ve probably noticed no one can keep a secret, particularly when it’s something we’d prefer be kept quiet. Our ideas and intentions have value if they’re to be put into words at all, and they’re apt to be stolen when loose lips let them out to every passerby. Anything worth caring about is worth hiring an editor for, but we also need it to remain confidential until we can bear the fruits of our long labor.
Editors are like mercenaries contracted to silence, at penalty of death, fighting a secret war for us that no one else can know about until it’s been won. It isn’t that they can’t tell our secrets to the world like anyone else, but that if and when they do, that’ll be the last time they did. It’s a compelling incentive to keep things between us entirely between us, and one that can’t be replicated in any other way. Our friends and family temporarily lose our trust when they betray us, but editors lose their livelihood.
Even if we ourselves don’t particularly value what we’re making, telling anyone else too much about it too soon is a wonderful way to kill it. Criticism is crass enough without knowing how to ask for it, let alone read it, but given at the wrong time and taken in the wrong way it can deflate an otherwise lofty work. Editors know full well that everything we make is bad in the beginning, sometimes frightfully horrible, but it still needs to be kept safe within the womb if it has any hope of developing.
We’re all somewhat of a midwife to our own work, and do well to protect it when it’s at its most vulnerable. In an intimate relationship with a fellow interlocutor, that process is nurtured, but exposed to the elements, it may as well be abandoned.
13. We Speak English as a Second Language, Even When it’s Our Only Language
We’re at a thorough and unfortunate disadvantage when we’re expected to communicate as well as everyone else when everyone else has been communicating for years or decades longer than we have. Speaking a language is one thing, doing it eloquently another, but doing either as novices when our lives and careers depend on it is a tragedy in the making.
Many of us are fortunate enough to grow up speaking the languages we use most natively, and have the nuances and complexities of it embedded in us to an extent, but many more of us do not. This is a liability that we will likely never overcome on our own, no matter how hard or long we try. Much of language can’t be taught, and needs to be lived to learn, beginning at a very early age. And while that isn’t fair, it is true.
Growing up with a language doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll flourish in it either. Those of us that are native speakers of a tongue typically don’t realize that writing in any of its various forms has its own rules and Rhetoric to it, which not only aren’t taught, but take decades of experience and study to even be aware of. This isn’t something that only affects those of us we label as ‘ESL’. We’re all ‘ESL’ when we don’t regularly and religiously practice the Rhetoric of writing as it appears across all mediums. It’s rare for even experienced writers to do that because that’s not what writers do.
What works in one context doesn’t necessarily work in any other, which makes our lives harder when we write because we lump countless different contexts together when we go about it. We call the written and spoken ‘versions’ of something like English by the same name, but each of them are their own distinct languages, with dialects in any form they take that matter. Extremes examples of this are easy to understand. We wouldn’t write a book entirely composed of the sort of phrasing we use in headlines. We wouldn’t insert a novel into the dialog bubble of a comic panel. We wouldn’t turn in a report in poetic verse. We don’t speak the same way on a basketball court as we would in a court of law. Actors don’t read long, ‘wordy’ sentences at length when they’re on camera. ‘Ums’, ‘uhs’, and ‘hmms’ have no place in text other than to comment on them, but serve compelling purposes in casual conversation.
Despite it occurring to relatively few of us, nothing about this is hard to understand. It does happen on the finest of levels in every form and instance our writing can take, however, making it difficult to appreciate and apply when we need it most. Only superficial aspects of language are taught because the valuable nuances of them are as difficult to teach as they are to grasp. They’re not the place of a writer to know, but they are the place of an editor to master and leverage in service to one.
14. Editing is a Job, but Likely not Our Own
Expecting anyone of any background, degree, or profession to write well is silly. It takes decades to build up skilled expertise in anything, let alone something that isn’t particularly well taught like writing. But that’s exactly what we do, and have only begun to do it with greater frequency the more we’ve come to communicate, either casually or for a living.
There’s no good reason to believe a scientist, business man, programmer, or medical professional — let alone a student of anything at all — can or should be exceptionally skilled in something that isn’t their specialty. To be great at anything, we have to accept that we can’t take the time to be great at everything. But we’re still judged as if we could be the best at all things at once, and pay the price as if that were fair. We’re looked down upon, seen as less intelligent, miss out on opportunities, and generally have things go any way but our own because of a false expectation we all have that can’t withstand a moment’s scrutiny.
To succeed, we focus on developing our strong suits, even if that involves wearing several of them. But to the extent we appreciate our own hard-earned skills, we appreciate the need to hire someone else for theirs, particularly when they pertain to things we ourselves aren’t very good at, but they are.
15. Writing is Magical, but Not Mystical
There are no end to the combination of words and phrases that can result in a compelling product, nor forms that product can take. The affects great writing can achieve are equally innumerable, and it isn’t a stretch to say great writing has and continues to change the world. Writing itself isn’t impenetrable mysticism granted only as a gift to a select few, however, despite how magical it may seem.
We aren’t born with a third eye that sees the right words highlighted on a page as we type them in as the muse decrees. Knowledge and skill in the rules and Rhetoric of it takes the better part of a devoted life to learn, which is why most of us aren’t very good at writing to begin with, or many things for that matter. Expecting us all to write well regardless of background and circumstance, let alone unaided, is like expecting everyone to be able to walk well on a tight rope across an endless series of canyons, and just as prone to accidents. Having a helping hand to balance us out as we traverse that is the only way any of us ever make it across. There’s no end to the amount of failed attempts, and the lack of reaching out at their core.
There are those of us that write well, and it is commendable, but we get there with all the help we can gather, and we value it for that reason. It isn’t an innate talent or gift, however, it’s a hard-earned set of skills that most of us inherently don’t have to time to develop, let alone the means in most cases. Writing well is magical, but it itself isn’t magic, and can only be imparted through someone else that knows better, the need for which only gets greater the better we ourselves become at it. Editors know how writing works, and can’t help but impart it to us when we enlist their help.
The beginning of that knowledge is that it’s done with a bit of courage, and an ample amount of help, particularly for those of us that are making their best work.
16. Great Editors Save Us from the Poor Editors in Us All
Unfortunately for us, whether or not we hire an editor, editors will come to us, and in ways we’re not equipped to deal with without already having one. Much like writing, it’s one thing to edit, and another to edit well. It’s akin to saying all of us can draw, but that doesn’t mean all of us are good at it. Unlike drawing, however, poor editing is actively toxic to our work, and we’re all well equipped to do it in ways so bad that we can bring down even the best of drafts. We wouldn’t doodle all over each other’s drawings, but it takes training not to edit all over another’s writing when reading it.
We’re so great at being bad at editing that it’s what we do by default whenever asked. We’ll point out a ‘mistake’ here, or an ‘error’ there, make a suggestion or two, be wrong about most of it, and send our friends, family, and coworkers into a tizzy. We don’t need to be prompted or asked to ‘edit’ someone’s work, we’ll go out of our way to do it the more ignorant we are of what doing it well at all looks like. It’s as if we’re all children donning stethoscopes and claiming we’re now doctors, then proceed to perform very real surgery with very real consequences. In that situation, as writers, we quickly have no idea who to trust, what to focus on, or why, when a moment prior we were simply nervous. We flop around changing this and cutting that, adding this and putting that over there, and pretty soon our writing is a mess when before it was merely mediocre.
Editing is more than criticism, but it takes a keen eye to read criticism at all, which only an editor is equipped to do when paired with a would-be writer. Writing itself is hard, but it’s made unduly harder when navigating noisy territory filled with well-intentioned children that continue their attempts even when we’ve already hired help. It takes a great deal of time, experience, and a certain sort of temperament to be skilled at editing, which if anyone else but an editor had, it’d be their job.
17. Editors Know What Editing Is
Editing isn’t an expensive form of ‘spellcheck’. Proofreading is a separate term for a reason. Unless we’re in grammar school, grammar and spelling are afterthoughts in what editing entails, like reminding an athlete to tie their shoes before running on to win a big race. The surest sign of a poor editor is when that’s all someone has to say about our work. We certainly look silly when our ‘i’s aren’t dotted and our ‘t’s aren’t crossed, but that’s all relatively easy to overlook. Most of the time we don’t even notice that when we read something. We only focus on it when there’s no substance to something to begin with, which is what an editor is primarily concerned with, even more than an author.
We don’t just write things for the sake of it. Even if we’re doing it for personal catharsis and therapy, like writing an angry letter we’ve no intention of mailing, there’s an overriding point to it that our writing is intended to see done. We write to affect ourselves, each other, and the world around us, achieving certain ends in ways we otherwise couldn’t. Those ends can be as humble as catching up with an old friend, getting a promotion, or proving a point, but our writing is a means to them, not the end itself. Writing is a form of currency in that way, how well we do it increasing our purchasing power towards whatever it is we’re after.
An editor is like a partner that seeks out, develops, and guides us in getting what we’re after, even when we ourselves aren’t sure. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to find ways of achieving it, as well as things we’d do better to achieve than our original aims. At times that can mean jumping in and writing a great deal of it themselves, or throwing out a lot of what’s already been written instead of polishing something fundamentally flawed for our intent. An editor is someone more dedicated to our work than we are ourselves, and equipped to do what we ourselves can’t to make it great.
18. Editors Know the Secret to Writing Well
Writing well doesn’t suddenly ‘happen’, like lightning striking us if we stand just right. Writing isn’t an event, it’s a process, and never comes about by chance.
Our first drafts of anything pale in comparison to their final versions. We need expert feedback to revise them. We frequently need help deciding and guiding us in what to write if we’ve any hope of starting and continuing on. We go through as many iterations as time will allow. We have no idea how long something is going to take, and manage to be wrong any time we try. We need to immerse ourselves in a field or topic to be able to think it through, or hire someone else that is. We need to be consistent, committed, and work between multiple deadlines if we’re to sit down and write anything at all. We will feel demoralized, dissuaded, and disillusioned all throughout it, to the extent we’re challenging ourselves to write anything of value. Self-management is hard enough without doing it under pressure. And that’s a very hard thing to do when we only have to answer to ourselves. Our default response can’t help but be procrastination, giving up, or hurrying things along by making do with whatever we happen to spit out soonest.
There’s no end to what we can refine, revise, and achieve when we know how to write, but part of that ‘knowing’ is knowing that it’s not something we can do alone. Writing is something we need help with. Great writing isn’t an accident, it’s an effort, and one we can’t muster on our own, no matter how hard or long we try.
In the face of all that, it’s only natural to look for secrets, tricks, and shortcuts that suggest it could be any other way. The quest for them quickly takes over our ability to write, instead setting off in search of the ‘one true way’ of writing well that everyone else seems to know but no one’s willing to talk about. We soon see writing well as the greatest of all puzzles, and never tire of buying tips on the solution for it, only to find our pieces strewn around even further apart, and more scattered than ever before from it.
Editors are well versed in that secret, however. They know that writing well is messy, difficult, and in need of repeated attempts, all while working with someone else that’s been there to help us see it through. It’s easy to spend a stressful lifetime searching for answers before finally realizing that we were simply attempting something we needed hired help with. There’s no end to the amount of products devoted to praying on our delusions the longer we wander with them — other than the helping hand of an editor to see us on our way past them.
19. Editors Make Us Fit to Write
The importance of peace of mind to great writing cannot be overstated. And it’s something editors facilitate from the moment we decide to hire them.
Our state of mind is the foundation of our ability to do mental work. We readily appreciate the need for vitality when it comes to physical labor, never expecting ourselves to run marathons or move mountains when we’re ill. We almost entirely ignore it when it comes to creative endeavors, however, and actively make it worse for ourselves by doing the intellectual equivalent of sitting out in the cold wearing wet clothing when we write, ignoring our growing pneumonia in ways that only make it worse.
We don’t do anything well when we’re horribly affected. Stress, anxiety, nervousness, being tired, lonely, or anything we’re familiar with using as a negative description of states we’d rather avoid all make it gradually more difficult for us to control our attention and be creative. The process of writing itself when undertaken alone often leads to just that, compounding itself over time until we’re so used to it that we no longer notice we’re making ourselves sick. Soon enough, we’re slower, we’re stupider, and most of what we say sounds silly upon later reflection.
This deeply affects what we focus on, how we go about it, and what the end result of any of our efforts can hope to be. There’s a reason most writers procrastinate themselves into obscurity and tend to unknowingly give up without help because they simply give out. Our ability to manage ourselves will also never compete with what we’re capable of in competent hands. We can’t write well when we’re in no position to write, which a lack of an editor can’t help but place us in.
20. Writing Well is Editing
Whatever it is we’re using our writing to do, writing well takes a great deal of knowledge to get it done, and a great deal of skill to see it through. That can be on any number of topics themselves that we’re touching on, familiarity with innumerable works ours will compete and come into dialog with, or on how writing itself will best work in service to our goals. It’s a huge burden to bear, and one so great that few of us would have the time and attention to write if we managed to maintain it as an editor does by going about their day.
Our knowledge and skill is always more limited than someone who makes a living trafficking it.
Many great writers also work as editors for that reason, whether they’re aware of it or not. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve worked on such a wide variety of things, covering a broad array of subjects, and alongside incredibly capable people in my Rhetorical endeavors that it’s come to be expected that I can draw on an otherwise unattainable base of relevance to leverage against whatever my clients are after. All of it’s fact-checked, well-argued, and impeccably-composed where appropriate by the time we’re done with it as well, meaning it’s not the sort of fluff we gain after an afternoon’s worth of Wikipedia, fun though that may be. It’s like having an armory at our disposal whenever we go to work, and one I usually derive some of our best work from.
It also takes a deep level of immersion in our craft to maintain any standard of excellence, which editors do by necessity, and writers only as a luxury. That might sound odd, as it’s easy to think a writer would spend more time writing than an editor might, but the language of it may be why so many of us are confused by that. Though we frequently refer to it as ‘writing’, coming up with things or drafting them aren’t the same things as writing well, or making a compelling, effective, worthwhile product that both achieves what we’re after and exceeds all expectations. That project of continual refinement, revision, and iteration, in dialog with one another towards something great, is what editing is as a process — which is distinct from throwing words out there in any of various forms and hoping some of them will work.
All the best authors were editors for a reason, and there’s a reason even they take to hiring them when donning the director’s hat and taking time off to write. Although writing has its place, editing is what we do together when we write well, which only an editor external to ourselves is in a position to marshal their experience with, even if we ourselves are an editor.
21. Hiring an Editor is Easier than Ever
And that isn’t just because you’ve already found one.
I work with people all over the world, from all walks of life, on all manner of things, and can set up a wonderful working relationship in a matter of minutes. My work is largely done remotely, and with the utmost professionalism and security, so all of us hardly need to move to maintain the highest quality partnership possible. Everything is contracted, signed, written out in detail, and with impeccable terms, conducted through secure channels so foul play isn’t an option for either of us. There’s only so much I can take on at once with the demand I have, but I begin almost immediately with those I can afford to work with. I turn everything around quickly, with the highest of quality, and enough detailed notes and information alongside that the answer to many questions is typically embedded in the work itself. Consistent contact is kept the entire time, whether the project itself is as short lived as an academic essay assignment, or a longer term working effort like a series of articles, presentations, or a book.
I’m a pleasure to work with, I know what I’m doing, I’ve been doing it for a while with great success, and I’m good at it. I even teach it, typically taking to helping anyone I work with to work better themselves, whether or not they continue doing it alongside me. I’ve worked with people from every profession there is, on most things I can imagine, and that’s coming from an imaginative person. I specialize in nonfiction, but I’ve worked on just as many fictional works with wonderful results. I do great work, I do it in a timely manner, I make the whole thing enjoyable, and that’s probably why I get booked up so quickly. Most of my clients are referrals for a reason, with their only incentive being how far their expectations were exceeded.
And I’m only a click away.
I’m a great writer and an even better editor because I appreciate my own limitations, and that much like everyone else, I cannot edit my own work effectively, which is what writing well entails. That’s the central thesis of this entire work, and one I entirely believe in, both theoretically and from personal experience. Writing well without an editor like trying to look at our own eyes without a reflective surface — all the fidgeting about that results doesn’t accomplish what we set out to do, and we’re only lucky that we can’t see how foolish we look. I also know what it’s like to believe I’m too good for an editor, and likely still do, but never go without one because I know better. This work itself was edited, and it shows.
I’ve been in all the positions we can be in when it comes to writing, whether it be lost and confused in the beginning, unsure as I’m going, figuring out my writing has turned into something different as I move along with it, confident but in need of feedback and support, or simply pressed for time and needing help before a deadline to get something done. And I’ve helped countless people surmount them in ways I was fortunate enough to have help with in doing the same.
Whether or not you hire with me, do hire somebody, but don’t hire just anybody. Writing is a challenge, but editing is easily more difficult, and done poorly will actively detract from merely getting by with unfinished work. And appreciate that writing in any of its various forms is inherently hard, if not impossible to do our best at on our own, so don’t feel bad about having trouble with it. That only means we’re aware of what great writing looks like, which is a better position to be in than most.
If you’d like the help we all wish we had when we needed it, I recommend contacting me as soon as you can. I get booked up pretty quickly.
I’m a firm believer in the quality of our work speaking for itself, but I’ve got all the dog tags and accolades expected of someone that can produce great work:
- Fifteen years of experience editing academic, professional, commercial, and personal projects
- Top grad from and teaches regular out at Berkeley
- Diverse base of experience in both projects and clients
- Certified educator and editor
I’ve been doing this for a while, I’m good at it, and make a living cultivating that in others. I’ve no shortage of ability to leverage against whatever obstacles are in our way, or achieve whatever results we’re after.
I have quick turnarounds, make timely responses, and produce a large body of high quality work in less time than anyone experienced is used to.
As someone that’s been in business for years, I appreciate the value of only doing good business, as well as have a thorough understanding of how it’s conducted. There will be no ambiguity between us, we will be in consistent contact the entire time, the terms are all laid out in clear and concise ways in impeccable contracts giving us both peace of mind, and every professional courtesy will be made along the way.
I’m well learned and work on a wide variety of things, so I can and do regularly act as an authoritative source of information and verification for most that I work with. This streamlines the process, and lets me leverage things in service to every nonfiction and fiction work I’ve ever worked on in ways I’ve never not been thanked for.
Fellow Writer and Educator
I do what I help people with, as well as teach it, so I know where you’re coming from, and do my best to leave you better off in what you do than when we begin together. I know how difficult this can be on your own, and how obtuse it is to even know where to begin when seeking to improve.
I teach public speaking and specialize in the discipline that started it, so we’re never going to be at a loss for words or understanding while working together, no matter how much of a second language English may be for who I’m working with.
Most of my clients are referrals, and I come highly recommended:
- “This is perfect! It’s exactly the kind of improvements I was hoping for. I really appreciate your help! We have more essays to write and we’ll be coming back to you for more help!!!” — Vishrut M.
- “I didn’t understand the material or what I was doing until I read the way you edited things. I’ll be coming back to you for the foreseeable future to help explain and improve my assignments!” Iam L.
- “I’m so glad I picked you as an editor! I want to thank you so much for your help. I will recommend you to my friends!” — Norman T.
- “After your editing, I saw a huge improvement! I really like the way things turned out Steven. This wouldn’t have worked without you.” — Ekaterina F.
- “Thank you so much! You’ve really been a big help, it reads way better now, and you made everything easier for me to understand.” — Julie D.
- “I can’t believe the difference your edits made! It’s like night and day.” — Nancy B.
- “You went above and beyond my wildest expectations for this. Thank you so much!!” — Jared C.
- “You leveled up my abysmal ad. I’m coming back to you for the rest!” — Chen Y.
- “Holy crap, this is amazing! My presentation’s great now. I can’t wait to wow them with this!” — Francis I.
- “You really saved my ass at the last minute!” — John J.
- “I’ve worked with many editors, and you are by far the best, kindest, and most professional. You did everything well, on time, under budget, and had a remarkable turnaround. All of my expectations have been succeeded. Much love for what you do.” — Benjamin A.
- “I have no idea how you made it work, but you really brought everything together and made it great!” — E. K.
- “Thank you so much!! I’ll be sure to tell all my friends, and come back to you for help with my daughters in the future.” — Nancy T.
- “You went above and beyond just editing. I learned more from you than my professors on the topics I was assigned.” — Chung P.
- “That deal would have fallen through without your help on the presentation and contracts. I’m keeping you on speed dial.” — Bart J.
- “I couldn’t have gotten through graduate school without you. I can’t thank you enough.” — Harold M.
- “Your edits pretty much became our new marketing direction. I really did not expect to get so much out of our time together. I honestly thought you were just going to proofread what I sent you and fix the headlines, but you went on to hit a series of home runs that are winning the game for us. As a small team that’s new to all of this, we’ll always be indebted to you. You made me look good too since I can say I’m the one that found you!” — A. J.
- “The response rate for our online and email ads increased by a factor of ten after we implemented your changes and suggestions. Your work is worth far more than what we paid you, which is the highest compliment I can give anyone as a business owner.” — Walter Q.
- “I tell every one of my friends about you when they’re in a pinch.” — Yves A.
- “We did the grunt work in the lab, but you made our study compelling and insightful. Without that, I don’t think we would have be granted additional funding. Expect to hear from me again!” — Anita J.
- “I was screwed on my dissertation until you waved your magic fingers and made something of my incoherent nonsense. You were also more of a help to me on the admittedly challenging topic than any of my colleagues. I doubt I’d have my doctorate without you.” — Kim P.
- “My work was crap and you made it awesome. You’re a magician.” — Jared R.
- “I’ve worked with many editors, and you are by far the best I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. We’ve got a good thing going and I have no intention of ending it any time soon.” — P. T.
- “Steven is a one-man editing army that stops at nothing until every word is golden and all readers are blown away.” — Nick A.
- “I slept easy for the first time in years after enlisting your help. Your public speaking class was also life-changing. You’re a rhetorical master!” Jason R.
- “No complaints, couldn’t be happier. You actually got me a promotion!” — Judy D.
- “I’ve struggled all my life with writing, never able to make the words on the page live up to the words in my head. You freed them from my ramblings and unshackled them from my mind. You’re a miracle worker!” — Susan C.
- “My only complaint is that I can’t have you with me at all times.” — Noland C.
- “I’ve been in business for more than 20 years. I’ve worked with more editors than I can count. I’ve never been so impressed with the results and timeliness as I have with you.” — Bart Y.
Extended Testimonials and Success Stories
- “The editing is excellent! Steven provides high level professional copy editing with deeply helpful insight into the content itself. From an academic background, his sympathy to the academic situation is not only greatly appreciated, but also very helpful.” — Yiyi Chen
- “I’m an international student at a leading American university. The course work is very demanding. English isn’t my strong suit. Writing for me is painful. Steven helped me get all the way through college despite that, both editing my work, as well as taking the time to explain the course work to me in ways far better than any of my distinguished professors could. I would not be graduating this spring without him. I’m so happy I came to him, I was having panic attacks before his help. I got more out of talking to him over the phone and through emails than I did in most of my classes. He always seems to have the right answer for everything, and always knows just what to say, even figuring out what I was trying to say when I myself probably wasn’t sure of it. I just wanted to not sound so foreign, but all of my assignments ended up being good enough to publish with his help. I was suddenly one of the top people in all of my classes. I’ve gotten better at writing too after seeing how he works and having him explain what he’s doing when he edits my papers, proposals, and presentations. I felt like I won the lottery after getting my first paper back from him after emailing him on Craigslist. It was all very unexpected. He was always there for me like my little guardian angel, and worth every penny. I’ll miss him! If I go to grad school he’ll be hearing from me again for another seven years.” — Jaime L.
- “I hired Steven to help my son. With how well things turned out, figured why not use him myself for my professional work? He’s become the designated editor for our family and business ever since whenever we need help, and provided valuable professional consulting as well, which I did not anticipate when I emailed him to help with Raj. I never appreciated how versatile a discipline Rhetoric was until I met him, or had honestly heard of it. If you’re a professional, academic, or parent, Steven’s your go-to guy.” — Pavan S.
- “Steven really brought our book together. We would not have been able to find a publisher without him. We are coming back to him for all our future work. Our only complaint is that he would not let us hire him full time. How’s that for a recommendation?” — John A.
- “Steven is a very gifted editor that I’ve hired over a dozen times and intend to at least a dozen times more. I learn something valuable every time we work together. He has a wonderful sense of humor too.” — Jerry B.
- “I was wary of working with someone online at first, and I had never hired an editor before working with Steven. I only found out what one was in desperation as deadlines were approaching too quickly for me to handle. I haven’t turned in a single assignment since without Steven’s help.” — Ryan R.
- “Hiring Steven is like sending out a hitman to assassinate your biggest problems.” — Arnold A.
- “I am ESL. So is my son. I hired Steven for help with my son’s assignments in HS. He got him into college and then helped after as well. We are very happy with the results. Steven has helped us with our very big disadvantage in America.” — Hiro N.
- “Why learn to write when you can hire Steven? He’ll make your work greater than you could if you had spent years improving anyway. I believe many of us are too old to learn a new craft. We would all do well to simply hire a professional, of which Steven sits high among.” — Chen K.
- “Steven’s a great man that does great work. 15 out of 10” — Aja U.
- “My husband and I have a lot to do. English isn’t our first language, and writing isn’t our specialty. My daughter needed help with her high school essays. We really didn’t know who to turn to. Finding Steven has been a big help to us all. He worked with my daughter through the rest of her schooling, and we continued enlisting his aid as she went through college. We were sure to have him start with our younger daughter as soon as she needed it as well. All of it has been very convenient, professional, and done entirely remotely.
It is frustrating sometimes because writing isn’t taught very well in schools, despite our children being graded harshly on it. Steven both tutored them in the process of writing, as well as edited their essays with them until they were great. His help guarantees success, and built skills in our daughters that they will use their entire lives. We recommend him without hesitation to all of our friends and family when they’re in need.” — V. D.
- “As a lawyer, I’m not a bad writer, but it simply isn’t feasible for me to give each and every brief, contract, and presentation the attention it needs. I provide Steven with the raw materials of what needs to be said and the key ideas as I’d roughly like them to be stated, and he weaves it all into gold. He frees up my time to work with more clients face-to-face, and gives me wonderful things to say and submit. If I’d have thought of this earlier in my career, I’d have been relying on him since law school!” — Tim A.
- “I’m a doctor that is also heavily involved in research, writing numerous papers and making monthly presentations in my field. The quality of my work in that area went through the roof after hiring Steven as an editor. He’s also given me unexpectedly good advice and analysis on the topics my work pertains to as well as the confidence that goes along with knowing my work is sound when I get in front of a large group to speak. I have no regrets or complaints in working with him. I have received ample praise from the results of our working relationship.” – Abdul J.
- “I have a tendency to word things in just the right way to piss everyone off and strain relationships that matter. I’m considered quite young for my present high-level management position I was thrust into, so I hired Steven as an editor as well as educator to help with my rather glaring weaknesses for my present position. His work has been a balm on the open wound of my career, which is a line I admittedly took from a conversation him, but applies very aptly to the elegant way he’s helped me as an editor for correspondence, presentations, and reports.” — Vin. C.
- “I’m a translator that works in comic adaptations. We had an editor on the team, but he fell ill and had to leave the project. Steven picked up where he left off and we all agree that he improved the quality of the final product by a wide margin. He’s worked in the industry for a while, so he was also a big help in offering advice to us as relative newbies that also saved us a lot of time, effort, and money down the line.” — Kazou K.
- “My initial email exchange with Steven says it all. I’d like to think I’m a good negotiator. I asked him for a quote on how much something would cost, and I countered with asking him why I should pay him that when I can get someone from a local college to do it for $20. He said I was welcome to, but he’d be worried I’d get what I paid for. I did manage to get someone to do it for $20, and Steven was right. Things turned out horribly, she seemingly didn’t finish editing it, and there was a typo in the first line. She also took weeks to do it. I ended up going back to Steven, and he was done within 24 hours. The difference in quality was night and day. I respect what real editing is after working with him, and it was entirely worth the price and time saved.” — Ken B.
- “I’m the cofounder and CEO of a small tech startup company. The beginning stages of an operation like this are crucial, as funding is scarce, and one of my top priorities is persuading people to trust us enough to keep us afloat while we build up a viable product and user base in a competitive space. I’m basically a glorified salesman until we turn a profit, and spend most of my time writing emails, making phone calls, and having meetings with potential investors. I frequently turn to Steven for help with all of those, as well as copy editing for our current marketing campaigns. His background in tech and business has been as big a boon to our company as his skill with rhetoric. He really gets what we’re trying to do, and what needs to be said and done to accomplish that, tending to the finest nuances most people like me may not be capable of seeing either because of lack of time or lack of experience. He also intuitively understands the subject matter like someone in the trenches alongside us. Every word counts when it’s intended to fund our future, and Steven’s work has made them all count. If my present venture doesn’t work out, I’d still go back to Steven for his help with the next one. He’s the only thing that’s consistently worked out for us so far.” — Eric A.
- “At the risk of perpetuating the stereotype, I’m a wonderful programmer that’s horrible at interfacing in meat-space. I had worked with Steven to improve my public speaking skills, and in the interim, saw it cost-effective to have him edit my proposals, emails, presentations, and even a few personal letters when of strategic value. His editing work has been invaluable to me and my career. He works efficiently, has a high quality output, and contextually tailors everything to its destined audience with an eye to the future and potentially being taken out of context, which is a valuable insight he’s drilled into me and I am thankful to carry around in my list of mental scripts. You really can’t go wrong with Steven when it comes to anything related to Rhetoric, editing included.” — Raj A.
Examples of Things Relevant to Editing I’ve Worked On
- College Applications
- Grad School Applications (Law School, Med School, Residency, etc.)
- Ads and Advertising Material
- Ghost Writing
- Line Editing
- Legal Briefs
- Cover Letters
- Technical Editing and Formatting (Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), etc.)
- Business Plans
- Blog Posts
- Curriculum Vitaes
- Lesson Plans
- Settlement Letters
- Legal Disputes and Resolutions
- Self-Publishing and On Demand Published Works
- Marketing and Distribution Materials
- Press Releases and PR Work
- Project Proposals
- Sales Documents
- Training Programs
- Web Sites
- Short Fiction
- Technical Documentation
- Anything Involving Words and Rhetoric
- Academic Journals
- Social Media Material
- Research Papers
- Legal Treatises
- Term Papers
- Reference Lists
- Literature Reviews
- Scholarship Essays
- Case Studies
- Tables and Figures
- Scientific Studies and Research Findings
- Journal Articles
- Magazine Articles
- Training Materials