July 11, 2016

Today we announce a new training program and certificate with our partners at ACES: The Society for Editing. Since 2013, Poynter and ACES have created more than 25 online courses on the craft of editing. Today’s Coffee Break Course comes from one of those courses, Fundamentals of Editing.

Relationships between writers and editors can be sensitive. A writer might think of an editor as a nitpicker. An editor might see the writer as a prima donna. This leads to frustration for both sides.

It helps to remember that the editor and writer have a mutual goal: Serve the reader well.

As an editor, you can be more successful working with writers if you follow these tips:

  • Read the entire story before making changes. You need a sense of the story structure and focus before any hands-on editing. Some of the questions that pop into your mind might be answered later in the piece.
  • Name the error. Don’t edit or change something simply because it’s not the way you would have written it. Be specific as you explain what needs to change and why. You might say, for instance, “This sentence needs to be rewritten because it contains a misplaced modifier and is confusing.”
  • Understand your role. Know what the expectation is for copy editing at the organization you are working for. What kinds of changes require consultation with the writer? What can you change without consultation? If protocols aren’t well established, consider proposing protocols. At a minimum, it helps to talk through your role before you start the work.
  • Be flexible. Exceptions exist for virtually every rule. Don’t be so rule-bound that you ruin clever or creative writing. Sometimes, the writing works best when the rules are bent.
  • Be respectful. You and the writer share the goal of producing the best work possible. Respect the writer’s style, even if it’s not your style.

Taken from Fundamentals of Editing, a self-directed course by Andy Bechtel, Lisa McLendon and Sue Burzynski Bullard at Poynter NewsU.

Take the full course

Have you missed a Coffee Break Course? Here’s our complete lineup. Or follow along on Twitter at #coffeebreakcourse.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current…
More by Vicki Krueger

More News

Back to News