Here are 3 Types of Editors and How to Deal with Them

Merciless, hands-off or amazing editor: ultimately you’ll learn

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Your first draft might end up in the bin, get over it. Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

I’ve had tons of editors over the years and, as cliché as it sounds, some were great and others atrocious. As a journalist, you’re going to have to find a way to work with your editor, and most of it boils down to your attitude.

Whether good or bad, your editor is only going to get under your skin as much as you let it. Beyond that, editors are generally a good idea as you get a fresh pair of eyes on your work. You’ll think your work is outstanding and exceptional until it reaches one of these types to look over it:

Madame Merciless
This editor won’t get started on anything until the spelling is bulletproof and you’ve followed the style-guide. You’ll forget a comma in the first line, and the copy will come back in an email with a comment like “please fix all punctuation, spelling, grammar and follow house-style.” Wait a minute! Isn’t that your job?

Yeah, well, you thought wrong. With this editor, expect your copy to keep bouncing back like a yo-yo. So, settle in, roll with the punches, and as you address the basics, things will start moving (slowly). By the time you’re done with this editor, your nerves will be frayed but if you’re lucky they morph into one of the other types along the way.

Herr Laisse Faire
“Looks great.” That’s the response after sending the copy back. Wow, you think, I’m amazing then you realize the editor barely looked at the copy and spot several errors.

Wait a minute, my editor would let this go through as is? You run with what you have and if you’re lucky there’s a sub that will do a final check. Running all the checks yourself forces you to question everything, suddenly nothing makes sense, and you send a revised and fixed version back to the editor.

“Looks great” is the response. As you sit there agonizing over the copy you build up enough courage to publish what you have, rely on the sub, find a colleague or read it out loud in the bathroom in front of the mirror (p.s. reading things out loud is a great way to spot errors!). Failing that, you secretly find that other editor.

Señor Genius
This rare breed will take your copy, make necessary fixes by using the tracking tool so you can see the changes; they will write detailed notes in a separate email explaining significant changes to the wording and give you the space to decide if their decisions are right.

This editor will discuss with you, go through your copy line by line to improve clarity, make it sharper and smooth it out to make it flow like poetry.

This editor is not only talented, but they bring out the best in you and your copy; believe in your ability to improve and care about your words and craft. Either that, or their people skills are exceptional, and they’ve found a way to brutalize your copy but be hideously nice about it. Maybe that’s their genius?

No matter which editor you get, be happy you have some to look over your work, question your judgment, find those logic gaps, or force you to take another close look at your work. Each editor teaches you valuable lessons and the copy (and you) will improve. So, revel in their wisdom and save your frustrations for after work drinks or the gym.

Originally published at

I muse on being a journalist, author and on life. Husband. Father of two beautiful girls. Tennis & CrossFit.

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