Stop arguing with editors

Photo: Jeff Isom via Wikimedia Commons

Your editor makes a comment or suggestion you don’t like and don’t agree with. What do you do now?

There is one wrong answer to this question, and three right answers.

The wrong answer is to argue with the editor. Why? Convincing the editor that she is wrong is of no value to you. Who cares if you convince the editor? The reader doesn’t. The manuscript doesn’t. All it does is make you feel good (or bad, maybe). So even if you think the editor is wrong, arguing is pointless.

Here are the three right answers, in increasing order of value.

1 Ignore the advice and do it your way

Sometimes editors are just, well, wrong. Or they may be technically right, but their advice doesn’t make the text any better.

Of course, you are in charge of your content — the editor works for you. So you get to choose what to do.

If you’re confident, go ahead, write it the way you want and ignore the editor. It’s risky, but hey, it’s your content.

(If you haven’t hired the editor — for example, if they’re your boss — you may not have this option. So you’ll have to talk the editor into the fact that you’re right. But, as I said earlier, arguing with editors is usually pointless.)

2 Take the editor’s suggestion

Sometimes editors are right. If the editor has a good idea, run with it! That’s what she’s there for.

This works best if you think about the suggestion first. Just accepting all the editor’s suggestions could create a mishmash of ideas, some yours, some the editor’s. But there’s no shame in adopting the editor’s ideas if you like them — that’s the editor’s value, after all.

3 Find a better solution

In the end, the editor’s job is to identify problems and suggest solutions, not to solve the problems.

Smart writers look at what the editor has suggested and say, “Yes, good point . . . but now I see a better way to solve the problem than what you suggested.”

If you engage your writer’s creativity to find a higher truth, the manuscript will benefit. And the editor will salute you — she really wants you to solve the problem your own way.

So stop arguing with editors. Using them to help find higher truths is a lot more productive.

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One Comment

  1. Often the content I worked on as an editor was highly technical in nature, and I realized that sometimes what I did to make something grammatically correct or less convoluted had the potential to also render it technically incorrect or misleading. Before I began editing someone’s work for the first time, I always told them that this could happen, and if it did, let me know and we’d sort it out together. That worked really well! 😉