Why an editor adds value

Why you need an editor | The value of hiring an editor

Journalist Tiffany Madison had the following famous words to say about editing: “While writing is like a joyful release, editing is a prison where the bars are my former intentions and the abusive warden my own neuroticism.” Unfortunately, this is the sentiment that many people have about the editor – that they are there to punish and chastise. They are there to highlight a writer’s faults. They are there to say that the writer will never get anywhere.


This couldn’t be farther from the truth – although Microsoft Word’s plethora of red lines that are an inevitable consequence of track changes may deem otherwise. An editor’s job is there to guide and, if necessary, to assist. They are not there to make themselves superior to others.


Don’t believe me?


Here’s why I say this.


An editor is a fresh pair of eyes

Drake Baer, in an article entitled The Psychological Reason You Can’t Spot Your Own Typos, chats to University of Sheffield psychologist Tom Stafford about this value an editor can add to a piece of writing:


“When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high-level task. As with all high-level tasks, your brain generalises simple, component parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas). We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases. Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning.”



The value of an editor


This means that when you’ve written something, you know what meaning you’ve ascribed to that phrase, word or sentence. This means that you unconsciously tell you brain and your eyes that you can skip over it, don’t have to read it that carefully, because you know that it’s correct.


However, what this process doesn’t take into account are the environmental factors that may have a bearing on your ability to put words onto paper that are ultimately correct.


For example, I’ve noticed this happening with people who don’t write in their mother tongue. They end up thinking in their mother tongues and translating their thoughts into the language that they’re writing in. For example:


  •  In Afrikaans the third person plural as well as the third person singular have the same formulation – there is no distinction between ‘he/she is’ and ‘they are’.
  • Thus, sometimes you’ll find that a native Afrikaans speaker may write something along the lines of “They is in Durban” because they are writing – in English – with their Afrikaans hats on.


So if you want me to be a second pair of eyes on your work – be it an academic thesis, brochure or novel – call me on +(0)82 7097876 or click here to send me a message.