How to Make Your Editors Actually Like You

Eileen L. Wittig

As a Very Professional Editor, our job is basically to make you, the writer, not look stupid. Expectedly, there is a large range of writing ability laid out before us, from "Zero Typos, Publish As-Is" to "I Have To Rewrite This Myself But Still Retain The Author's Voice Ughhh."

The result of this is that we have favorites. There are the authors who submit to us and make us say, "Oh, it's them again. K, let's see how this one is," and then there are the ones who make us say, "Aw yiss our favorite author has arrived, our day is made."

Naturally you want to be in the latter category. From the insiders, this is how to accomplish that feat of literary genius:

You are not writing for yourself. You are not even writing for us. You are writing for our audience, your potential readers.Write something timely, or write something evergreen. Things survive forever once they're published, especially with the internet. We as editors need things that will either apply to all people of all the ages of the world, or we need things that elaborate on something happening right now. Breaking news gets people's attention for a reason. And how else would we learn about the events of history if people hadn't written about them? The trick is to not get too nitty-gritty or wonky. Because ...

You're not writing for yourself. You're not even writing for us. You're writing for our audience, the people who will read your writing. Don't assume people know what you know, unless it truly is general knowledge (we all know what taxes are, etc. Unfortunately.). And don't assume people are interested, either. Give them a hook – write something universally interesting or timely – or no one will read what you write. Including us.

Now for the technicalities.

Put your punctuation inside the quotation marks. Nothing is more tedious for your editor than fixing your punctuation. Also, unless you're writing for a journalism or news souce, Oxford commas are highly encouraged. As in, we will put them in if you don't, and we'd love it if you didn't make us do that.

Only have one space between sentences. Yes, it used to be that we put two spaces between sentences. But as of about eight years ago that changed, and we care more about it online than in print. You don't realize it, but your eyes and brain have already become accustomed to seeing only one space between sentences online. It looks really odd to have two spaces now.

Don't put spaces at the ends of your paragraphs. For formatting reasons, we have to delete them all. This is annoying.

Hyperlink your links. Don't just copy and paste the whole URL into the copy. You know it isn't going to be published like that – where have you ever seen a URL actually printed in copy? At that point it's just insulting because it's telling us, "I don't have the time to make the two extra clicks to hyperlink this, so you can do it for me." Meanwhile, on our end, the process takes a full 30 seconds per link. This can turn into minutes of time wasted doing something that would literally only take you two extra clicks to do.

Speaking of links ...

You do not deem us worthy of you. We deem you worthy of us and our audience.Make sure your links, like, work. If you've hyperlinked something, we're going to assume it's directing to a live site that actually says what you want it to say. Because only someone who shouldn't be getting published would do anything else. *side eye*

Numerals at the beginning of sentences, or that are single digits, are spelled out. So, if it's the number 10 or higher, and if it isn't the first element of a sentence, use digits.

Books, articles, columns, etc., are not entitled. They are titled. But you are entitled for assuming you were right about using the word "entitled." (Note the period inside the quotation marks.)

Surround your "howevers," "therefores," thuses," etc., with commas. One comma before the word, thusly, and one after, as demonstrated. And look at all that punctuation beautifully placed within the quotation marks.

Do as much of the formatting as you can. You have no idea how much we love it when a piece comes in that already has bolded section headers and highlighted pull-quotes. It means we get to spend more time looking at what you've written, instead of thinking about how to present it, and it saves us a ton of time. And, in the long run, it probably makes you happier too – you know what sentences and phrases you want to highlight and what you really want your reader to get out of a section.

Obviously this one will depend on who you're submitting to. But if you've noticed that your publisher tends to have some kind of formatting in what they publish, ask if they'd like you to do it yourself. At the very least, they'll appreciate you asking. 

And finally, Don't think you're doing us a favor by submitting something to us. We appreciate you thinking that we are the proper platform for your writing, but in the end, you do not deem us worthy of you – we deem you worthy of us and our audience.

Now that you know what goes on inside our heads, proceed to our submissions page to submit your own work!

Republished from the author's website.

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