Writers Versus Editors: Who Really Wins?

Freelancing can be one of the more solitary career paths, since many niches require long hours in front of a computer/laptop screen with only the occasional client or coworker interactions. Even then, those interactions can often just be in the form of message boards or emails.

That’s not to say, though, that those freelance niches that rely upon each other don’t see their fair share of drama at times, even if it’s just through the printed word. More specifically, I’m referring to the age-old perennial strife that exists between writers and editors. What should be a productive exchange often dissolves into downright animosity. Does either side really win the battle of content clarity?

A writer’s woes…

Many of us enter the freelancing world as writers – this can be anything from SEO, to journalism, to transcription, you get the idea. There’s always some element of criticism in this line of work, and we accept that. Those of us who persevere are the ones who prosper.

It’s never great to submit something and think you’ve done a great, thorough job, only to find otherwise. To take the more positive approach is to realize that there’s a learning curve to each freelancing experience, and you’ll have to anticipate fixing things until each piece is like a carefully polished stone.

Yet, if there’s one thing that irks even the most seasoned of writers, it’s when an editor makes unfair (and often rude) comments and corrections. Even better? When said editor does so in a way that’s peppered with grammatical and/or spelling errors.

Tip: check out my related blog post, “How to Take Criticism as a Freelance Writer”

What’s more alarming is that 99% of the time, no matter the platform or gig, editors start out as writers. Sure, they’ve gotten to where they are because of almost-stellar adherence to guidelines, etc., but that doesn’t give them a free pass to turn off their tact switch (if they even had one in the first place).

An editor’s exasperation…

If you’ve graduated to a freelance editing role, congratulations! It definitely takes time and experience to reach such a plateau. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are, and you’re determined to stay here, or even ascend to greater heights. Grammar, punctuation, style guides – they’re all a set of challenges to be met with ferocity. The Internet is fraught with typos, and you’re going to do your part in conquering them.

So, when your editing queue is filled with problematic pieces that’ll take longer to fix than what you’d anticipated (resulting in subpar earnings), it’s easy to lose patience. To top it off, writers question your judgement at every turn. Accusatory messages flow all too freely.

Tip: see my blog post about this very dilemma, “How to Take Criticism as a Freelance Editor”

Why do these writers not follow directions? Although you admit that it’s gratifying to see writers take your critiques and improve, more often than not they’re just not listening to you (or so it seems). You just want to edit, earn, and happily go about your life otherwise.

Selecting a side…

All this time, typing away, trying to impress clients and move ever onward and upward leads to sense of self-involvement that pervades many writer/editor relationships. Basically, there’s a need to recognize perspectives.

Writers, what seems like might just be the way an editor speaks. Perhaps this person genuinely wants to help you be your best writing self. Reread their comments with an open mind to determine that fine line between constructive and condescending. If it’s the former, try to work with it within the project parameters and look at it as a learning experience. For the latter, politely reply to either the editor or the management and request the respect you’re due.

Editors, don’t forget your writing roots. Whether it’s an detail-focused personality, or a need to prove your editing mettle to the overall boss, understand that few can hold themselves up to high standards all the time. You’re where you are to encourage optimal writing, not to be so exacting that you dissuade writers from following their chosen career paths.

It’s one thing to blatantly ignore certain rules, it’s another to just need some time to adapt. Other times, life gets in the way of writing – being tired/stressed out just trying to make ends meet, etc. – and reflects in the results. Edit with heart, and you can’t go wrong.

The bottom line is that there shouldn’t be a winner here. Both sides need each other, otherwise there’ll eventually be a domino effect wherein the Internet will cease to serve its purpose and everyone will be out of jobs. Writers and editors, begin, continue, and end each work session with mindfulness. Don’t let each other diminish your worth. Acknowledge and adapt from mistakes. Above all, keep moving forward to build a better freelancing world.

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