The wise and wonderful Elisa asked if I would be comfortable sharing my experiences of having the Craft Your Content team edit my writing. It never dawned on me how personal the experience would be, so I immediately said yes.
As I read through past drafts, I see now how much I have learned. Though quite a bit of it has to do with a mastery (or slight lack thereof) of the English language, much of it has to do with myself personally.
I wanted to share my experience because, more and more often, I see my own clients letting the fear of an editor’s negative feedback take over, and it prevents them from producing a higher level of content. It’s like they dial it in with their simplest writing to avoid any potential questions or edits.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again — in a world with so much content, as a writer you are completely irreplaceable. Having an editorial team behind you just may be the key that allows you to set yourself apart from the mediocre.
Before I dive into the more personal lessons learned (Lessons #4 and #5), I wanted to touch base on three incredibly useful writing lessons I’ve learned.
I used to believe that if a sentence started with a capital and ended with a period, then surely it contained a complete thought. Turns out I was very wrong.
Even if you write a full sentence, it doesn’t necessarily complete a thought. This often happens when you use too many qualifiers or ambiguous words like “things” or “stuff.”
Looking back over some of my previously edited work, this also happened when I failed to provide substantial detail in a statement. Essentially, my paragraph would be a compilation of half sentences that, even when strung together, made no real sense.
Here’s an example:
Incomplete — The fantastic writer from Canada.
This is incomplete because it doesn’t contain an action, and it doesn’t tell you anything about why you are mentioning the writer from Canada.
Complete — The fantastic writer from Canada relies on her editors to ensure her content is high quality.
Boom. Now it’s a complete sentence because it doesn’t leave you hanging. You know who and what is happening and why.
Of course, the editors still call me out on incomplete sentences and paragraphs, but I’ve gotten much better. Now when I read through an article before submitting it to the editors, I look at each individual paragraph and try to poke holes in my arguments and statements.
Basically, I’m a wordsmith prosecutor trying to establish if there is any reasonable doubt behind each statement.
If I can confidently read each paragraph and not have any lingering questions, then I know I’ve done my best.
Now, this may never get better, but the editorial process has taught me how awful I am at grammar. It’s not exactly something I paid much attention to in school.
If I’m being honest, the addition of commas and em dashes (—) are my most common editorial suggestions, and there seems to be no middle ground. I either overuse commas or don’t place them where they should be.
A few years back, people started hopping on board the ‘Oxford comma’ train, and I flat out refused to join them. As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, “the Oxford comma is an optional comma that can be placed before the word “and” at the end of a list.”
Here’s an example:
Regular Comma — I like to read books, magazines and newspapers.
Oxford Comma — I like to read books, magazines, and newspapers.
To be fair, this use of comma is 100% stylistic, meaning it is not required but rather prefered by different people. Care to place a bet on which use of comma the Craft Your Content editors prefer?
They made me include this…
Comma use aside, I’m picking up on improper use of punctuation a lot more than I used to, and that’s definitely a win in my books.
Most times when I’m writing, I slide into a state of flow and don’t think about what I’m saying. Usually, this is when I’m writing on something that I’m passionate or opinionated about, or even when I know the material so well it just falls out of me. In these cases, I can barely keep my fingers moving fast enough to keep up with my thoughts, and that’s great for getting words out on a page. However, keeping that as a final draft is often less than ideal.
When I’m in one of these flow states, I have a tendency to run off on a tangent because I don’t have a clear direction for my article. Sure, I have plenty of facts or thoughts, but no actual strategy for sharing them.
This is when the editors come in and drop a “WTAF” in the comment section, reminding me that things are a little confusing and not at all in any logical order.
Editorial comments like this remind me to create more structure in my writing. Nowadays, before I even start an article, I write out a few points that I want to touch on and then copy and paste them in the order I want to write them. Structuring my thoughts prevents me from getting too off topic and reminds me that I have a main point to prove.
There is nothing less attractive than someone who cannot let go of their ego and take constructive criticism.
Whether it be in business or your personal life, sometimes your ego needs to take a back seat. In terms of writing, and in the case of reviewing edits, there truly is no room for ego.
I distinctly remember the first couple of times I received edits. I hated it.
Outside of grammatical edits, I felt the comments made about certain sentences or paragraphs were out of line and way off base, for no other reason than a bruised ego.
It took a deeper look into myself to realize that these comments weren’t shots being fired at me personally, but were opportunities to open my mind and better my craft.
So, I put my ego aside. Now each time I open up a newly edited document, I take a minute to reflect on why the editor would be suggesting something different for a particular paragraph, and I accept that we are both on the same team, striving for the same goal: to create amazing content.
One of the more personal lessons I’ve learned about writing while being edited is that sometimes my writing is actual shit. As in, just freakin’ awful, what-were-you-thinking, pure shit.
I’m not proud of it when this happens, but sometimes I just don’t feel like writing or I don’t like what I’m writing about, so I don’t put a lot of effort into it. Call it writer’s block or lack of interest; either way, it’s a disservice to myself, my readers, and my clients.
The good news is, the Craft Your Content editors have zero problem letting me know when I’ve submitted something less than good. And no, I’m not offended by this. I darn well deserve to hear it, and here’s why — we are not always going to give 110%. Not because we don’t want to, but because we can’t.
External and internal factors can greatly influence us and wreak havoc on productivity and work quality. For instance, going through a breakup or going weeks on end without ever seeing sunshine can make you feel unmotivated, uninspired, and unwilling to try harder.
With the help of an editorial team, I’ve been able to recover some of my junkier articles and turn them into great pieces of content. In these instances, I am incredibly grateful for their brutal honesty.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to give credit where credit is due.
Behind every great writer is a truly incredible editorial team, and they deserve a lot more recognition than they usually get.
Simply put, if you are publishing written content, you cannot afford to go without an editor.
You will learn from them, and you will grow as a result. Long story short, if you don’t have one, get one. As long as you keep an open mind and a willingness to improve, you will not regret it.
So, have you hired an editor yet?
Sabrina Taylor is a sassy writer and online manager with an inappropriate love for Buzzfeed, pizza and CrossFit. She has over 5 years experience working with businesses helping them build effective communications and marketing strategies. She is currently living in the hot and humid mountains of Northern Thailand, dreaming of hoodies, snow and Canadian bacon (first world problems, amiright?!).