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  • Karen

An Editor's Advice: Show But Don't Tell

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

I have edited my fair share of content (and then some).

I've redlined all sorts of words--coming from supervisors, employees, interns, freelancers, clients, and more--including blogs, website pages, press releases, sell sheets, emails, letters, articles, and so on and so on.

It might not surprise you that from reading all of this content, I have accumulated a few editor pet peeves along the way. Okay, more than a few. But today, I'll just start with one that really gets under my skin...

When you send me your content for review, please don't try to "sell" me on your writing piece.

You do NOT need to tell me how much you like what you've written, or how proud you are of it, or how much time you spent on it. Here's why...

(1) As your editor, I expect that you have put substantial effort into anything you have written and put before me for review. By harping on how much time and energy you have spent on a particular writing project, it can set off alarms for me. Do you usually half-ass projects but for this one you decided to double down and make a real effort? Are you telling me how hard you worked because you really didn't work that hard on it? My antenna is up...

(2) It is my job to review your work and provide feedback to YOU about your piece. If you're stating upfront that what you've done is really good, then it kinda feels like you're saying it's a waste of my time to read it. Why would you need my edits if you've done such great work? That immediately gets under my craw. You're also setting high expectations about your piece before I've even read it--there's only one way to go from there and that's down.

(3) If what you've written is good, it will speak for itself. If you've invested a ton of time and effort in a piece--meaning it's gone through many rounds of reworking, polishing, and self-editing--and you're feeling super happy with it, then the content should reflect that. It's very rare that content that you've worked your butt off on will completely suck; conversely, it is not often that you will put very little effort into writing something and your editor will say it's fantastic work. Your effort, conscientiousness, and passion will likely show in the end result. And what if you've expounded on the merits of your content and your editor does not feel the same--awkward!

In case you're wondering, I don't just talk the talk. When I send content to an editor, I simply say, "This is ready for your review. Thanks!" Enough said. It is implicit that I have tried my very best before sharing my work and that I'm happy with it. Otherwise, I wouldn't have (or shouldn't have) shared it.

If you're an editor, you may relate to my peeve or have others you'd like to share. If you're a content creator, this information may ruffle your feathers, and/or it may help you avoid ruffling the feathers of your editor in the future. (You might have some peeves of your own you want to share with us editors--feel free!) And, if you have nothing to do with editing or writing, you may find this advice applicable to your job, relationships, and more.

You don't need to tell me how high-quality you or work is. Just show me, please.

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