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Writing Articles : Do writers really need to have their work edited?

Do writers really need to have their work edited?

By Tracy Habenicht

I recently visited an online discussion board geared toward writers. In addition to posts from users touting their own work and some questioning how to break into the business, one thread, in particular, caught my attention. The person who had posted it said that an editor should not edit a writer's work unless he or she thinks it has a chance to be published.

That statement does a disservice to writers and editors everywhere. Most editors who run their own businesses are not associated with publishing houses. They do not have the power to accept or reject a work for publication. Their expertise lies simply in the editing.

In "Predators & Editors" in, it says, "Most editing services do not claim, and rightly so, that their efforts will result in a publishing contract. Reputable companies will tell you that up front."

So should a writer submit his or her work to an editor before sending it to a publisher?


Works can benefit a great deal from being edited. A good edit of a well-written piece will spot those few words that were inadvertently used incorrectly. A thorough edit of a more poorly written piece — no matter how original the plot or well-developed the characters — will spot those misspelled words, errors in punctuation, changes in tense or narration — the list goes on.

Editing also provides the writer with an objective reader before the story is sent to a publisher. An editor can tell a writer which part of the story does not make sense, which scene does not advance the plot, which character should be developed further.

Editors are taught to question everything. They will look at a work from a variety of angles. They will ask themselves not only, Is the story entertaining? but, Does it make sense? Are the characters' actions logical based on how they have been described? Is the dialogue believable? Are the words something an actual person would say?

If the editor has suggested a lot of improvements for the story, the writer will realize that perhaps this draft should not be the final one. Perhaps more work needs to go into the story before a publisher sees it.

So the use of editors is a logical step between having rough drafts and having a final product to submit to a publisher.

Any publisher is going to welcome writing in which the story stands out, not the mistakes. And that is going to get a writer that much closer to having his or her work published. •

© 2005 Tracy Habenicht. All rights reserved.

After editing others' work for five years, Tracy Habenicht has recently rediscovered the joy of creative writing.

Updated 1/6/14