Thursday, July 9, 2009

Is a good writer automatically a good editor?

Being a writer entails being able to transform thoughts and concepts into words.

But what about being an editor? An editor not only has to be a good writer, but he also has to have the ability to step out of his work and look at the words in a different way. When you edit your own work, you have to put on your "editor's glasses" and look at your work like it was done by someone else. Objectivity is an important quality for editors. This is why it is often hard for writers to edit their own work--it is hard to be objective about your own writing.

Professional editors and proofreaders are another step up the ladder. Editing for a living requires not only skill, but experience and aptitude. As I mentioned in my "What makes a good proofreader?" article in the inWrite Web site, these are the qualities of a good editor/proofreader:

  • A word lover – all writers and editors should have this quality.
  • Enjoys the hunt for errors – a proofreader should love his work.
  • A perfectionist – even if only for words and sentences.
  • Meticulous and eagle-eyed – he or she should be able to spot inconsistencies in style and format. Attention to detail is very important for a proofreader.
  • Reliability – of course, a good proofreader always delivers his work on time.
  • Concentration – four hours into the task, a proofreader must be able to work with the same intensity and focus as when he or she started the task.
  • High standards – a good proofreader must have excellent standards regarding the English language. He should know his noun from his pronoun, his verb from his adverb, and his hyphen from his em dash. He should know when and how to use the elements of language.

So, is a good writer automatically a good editor? I'll leave the answer up to you.


  1. Excellent post and excellent advice: I just tweeted about it!

    The key is to be a perfectionist and you can only be a perfectionist if you "enjoy the hunt for errors", as you so rightly put it...

  2. Thanks for acknowledging a writer may successfully edit her own work. For a while there, it seemed like all the articles were saying it was impossible. I think what has helped me is taking some time off between working on it and writing and when you need to line edit. Read it like it's someone else's work.