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5 Writing Tips to Astonish Your Editor

by Jennifer Grant

Do you ever wonder what a professional editor is looking for when they’re reading your writing? The best editors are worried about you and what they need to do to make you look stunning.

But editors aren’t fairy tale magicians. They can’t transform your rotting pumpkins into royal stage coached. The harder you make them work, the less likely they are to want to work with you again.

We want to give you a peek inside the mind of a good macroeditor and the everyday battles.

Wait. What’s a macroeditor?

That’s the person who handles the big picture of your manuscript. These editorial brilliants fly at 30,000, 20,000, even 10,000 feet, and attempt to avoid the brambles and weeds of the microeditor (also known as the copyeditor or grammar police). Impressing them is easier than you think.

Here are 5 simple writing tips to astonish your editor:

  1. Push big issues to center-stage.

Macro E’s think big. Bam!

They look at the piece’s structure, how the writing is organized and whether each section adds to your overall theme. They’re checking your tone to make sure the content speaks to your target audience in their language. Plus, they keep an eye on pacing so your points are made thoroughly without d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g.

Give your biggest points ample space and prominent placement. In journalistic language, don’t bury your lead.

  1. Let your style shine.

Macroeditors have style—yours, that is. A great macroeditor recognizes when the writer’s style reigns over a “rule.” They don’t want to be accused of rewriting to their own tastes, so editors keep their hands off a writer’s idiosyncrasies when those unique writing habits work for the piece.

Take regional dialect, for instance; if you’re a southerner, y’all’s editor ought to let your twang shine now and then. Another example is the inspirational writer who wants all pronouns for God capitalized, even though the current rule of thumb is to lowercase them. And sentence fragments. Sometimes effective, right? A wise editor makes an exception.

But when you scribble flat prose lacking in style, your editor must work overtime to make sure your work has flare. Make sure you’re writing has the right amount of twinges and twangs of your unique style.

  1. Polish and protect.

Macroeditors are your besties, in part, because they want you to look fabulous now and in the future. These are the guardians of your personal info.

They’re eyeing sensitive info you might not want made public—aka, they don’t want you to wake up to a bad case of the regrets. Expect them to second-guess you if something you’ve shared crosses the line, yes, that line, and could embarrass you or the people in your life.

Before submitting your work make sure you review private relationship details, money, tax troubles, and other red flags that might catch the macro E’s eye.

  1. Watch out for fair use, rights, and legal mumbo-jumbo.

Related to number 3, remember that the responsibility rests on the writer to secure permission from copyright holders to borrow quotes or lyrics. A macroeditor will always ask if you acquired permission.

The editor will also guide the writer about which rights to petition for (i.e., Worldwide, digital and web, maximum print run for printed work, etc.).

A handy rule of thumb: skip the song lyrics—those are a legal dumpster fire.

  1. Back off the emphatics.

The editor points out overuse and misuse of writing techniques such as:


Unnecessary CAPS

Bothersome boldface

Excessive italics

And exclamation points!!!

Emphatics are intended to focus the attention of readers, but they should be pared down in published work.

Like the hub of the publication wheel, the macroeditor communicates between you, the writer, and the microeditors farther down the road. They check the copyedits and proofs to ensure nothing gets changed that they’ve already okay’d with the writer.

These are the guardians of the publishing galaxy.

Love them.

Honor them.

Appreciate them.

Celebrate them.

Every. Chance. You. Get.

So follow these rules to save them time and make them love you back. And when all else fails, a Starbucks gift card and thank you notes is probably in order. I’ve never met an editor so frigid they couldn’t be thawed by a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Jennifer Grant is an author and editor in the Chicago area. Mother of four children, she is author of five books including the forthcoming When Did Everybody Else Get So Old? More at jennifergrant.com



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