What feedback do you expect from an editor? All bad can’t be all good.

The job is such that it requires a tactful flag on what won’t work for your audience. STYLO©

Are you someone who tells it straight as you see it? When asked your thoughts about an idea, would you use up all of your feedback time to explain what doesn’t work about it? If yes, know that there are choice words others may be using to describe you—best shared when you’re out of earshot.  A tamer one is editor.

Consider what we expect an editor to do with our copy. In simple terms, an editor alerts writers on what’s wrong with their words, their construction of sentences and ultimately their ideas. Realistically though, the editor-writer partnership is complex. It’s no surprise then when the relationship turns contentious. Think Thomas Wolfe and Maxwell Perkins or Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Apparently, a passionate contention can still result in writing that’s well received.

But try looking at it this way

An editor doesn’t have to be the writer’s nemesis. The job is such that it requires a tactful flag on what won’t work for your audience. For example, depending on the type of writing and its intended audience, the following can happen.

  • Burying your key message in the last paragraph? That’ll get flagged.
  • Introducing what studies are saying without sourcing? Expect a flag.
  • Referring to people of colour as “coloured people”? It’ll probably be flagged
  • Spelling a name differently throughout the copy? Definite flag.

Like everything in life, we need balance

Balance is the reason why editors worth their salt will review copy and also tell writers what works. Of course, it’s not their sole focus, but occasional comments confirming what’s effective can help move writing forward.

And honestly, editing copy is not a job of flagging as much as it is a job of supporting. As  writer, once you’ve communicated your goals, expect your editor to suggest how to improve your writing.  As well, feel no way to ask for feedback on the things you’re doing right.


Published by Saada STYLO

Saada Branker is a freelance features writer and copy editor putting words to work. Her home-based business, Saada STYLO, offers organizations and businesses writing and editing services. A Ryerson University journalism graduate, Saada specializes in delivering clean copy and is guided by her recorder, dictionary, and bank of ideas. She seeks other nomads of different cultures, shoe sizes, opinions, and experiences to keep her focused as a features writer, forever documenting for posterity.

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