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Part II: Writers and editors—what makes them good?

In this two-part article, I explore the ins and outs of excellence in the writing and editing professions. Join me as I outline what you should be looking for in these getting-rarer but oh-so-necessary skillsets.

Part II

Part of what makes writers learn and grow is being guided by solid editors who, when they are doing their jobs optimally, make a text even better. If the article was good enough to shine, a fine editor will make it sparkle.

The six ingredients that I believe make an excellent editor are complimentary to the skills of a good writer: similar but different.

  1. Details, details, details: An excellent editor is detail oriented. She considers every aspect of good content creation: whether the facts and data are accurate, whether the story makes sense, and whether the grammar and punctuation are impeccable.

  2. Language skills first: An excellent editor has superior language skills. His grammar is meticulous, his vocabulary wide, and he understands nuance. And he can be true to the science of grammar without affecting the integrity of the writer’s style.

  3. Good judgment: The excellent editor uses good judgment. She knows when something is missing, when opinion or bias has snuck in or when elements are culturally misaligned. She makes the changes that need to be made and understands and employs political savvy as she does it. And above all, she knows how to alter the text so that the story’s integrity remains intact.

  4. Flawless interaction: An excellent editor has good interpersonal skills. He knows how to provide solid, constructive edits that will guide and inspire the writer to perform optimally. In addition, a good editor can work well with senior executives to help them understand why their own writing might need polish. After all, not everyone is a writer.

  5. Practice what you preach!: Above all, the excellent editor is also an excellent writer. She can lead by example. She’s been there—she has turned out good texts thanks to good guidance from past editors. Importantly, an aspiring writer may find it difficult to take advice from someone who hasn’t walked a mile in her shoes. This can be said of many professions—and this one is no exception.

  6. Built on trust: At the end of the day, an excellent editor is a trusted partner. After all, writers and editors are in this writing thing together: a top-notch text is what matters most to both parties. But the excellent editor realizes this and understands that a partnership based on trust is key.


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