Friday, August 26, 2016

3 Good Reasons to Disagree with an Editor

by Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2


Because I’m an editor as well as an author, you might be surprised to read the title of this post. Aren’t editors always right? Won’t you doom your writing career if you disagree with an editor? Won’t they stick the dreaded difficult label on you if you dare to question one of his or her edits?

It’s important to keep in mind that disagreeing is far different than being disagreeable. Your relationship with your editor should be one of mutual give and take, characterized by dialogue and interaction. This is the reason for the Accept and Reject Change button in Microsoft Word—you have the power and right to reject editorial changes, but only for very good reasons. And be prepared to defend yourself.
Today I’d like to share three acceptable reasons to disagree with an editor.

1. The proposed change is incorrect. Most editors are well versed in grammar, punctuation, and the particular style guide of their publication. No editor, however, can know everything.

One reason to question an edit is the area of local or specific knowledge. For example, in my latest devotional book, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, I refer to my home area as the Sandhills of South Carolina. During the editing phase of my book, my editor lowercased the s in Sandhills.

I rejected her edit and inserted a comment bubble that explained that I wasn’t using the word Sandhills to describe the topography of the region; it was the actual name of the area. To add credibility to my explanation, I inserted a link to a web page of South Carolina geography facts describing the Sandhills region of South Carolina. And yes, the S was capitalized.

Similarly, you may have knowledge about an area, field, or specialty your editor doesn’t. If this impacts an edit, it’s more than OK to explain your reasoning. Documentation adds credibility to your objection.

2. The edit alters your meaning. Sometimes a change in wording or word order will significantly alter your intended meaning. This is a valid reason to oppose an editorial change. For example, you may write, “The club is open to visitors and meets on the first and third Thursdays.” Your editor may think the specifics bog down the flow of the article and change it to “The club is open to visitors and meets every other Thursday.”

You know, however, that because of the way the calendar sometimes falls, there might be a fifth Thursday in a month, making the “every other Thursday” change inaccurate.

If an edit changes the meaning or intent of your words, you must reject it (with an explanation) to maintain the accuracy of your writing.

3. The edit significantly alters your voice. Good editors know that edits should reinforce your voice and style, not change it. If you’re folksy and casual, and you’re writing a whimsical novel about life in the mountains of North Carolina, your editor shouldn’t change your vernacular to sound like an academian.  Conversely, if your topic is technical or educational, she’s justified in editing out the y’alls, sistahs and sugahs.

Voice is a tricky thing to pin down, but if you read the piece aloud, and it sounds more like your editor than you, it’s time to politely object.

Keep in mind that editors are not adversaries. Their job is to make writers look good and make your work as clear and effective as possible. While most are knowledgeable and professional, they’re not infallible.

It’s important to remember, however, that while you may be justified in disagreeing with an editor, you’re never justified in being disagreeable. Be polite, respectful, teachable, and professional, and you’ll always have a great relationship with the hardworking editors with whom you work.

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3 Good Reasons to Disagree with an Editor - @LoriHatcher2 on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of two devotional books, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women and  Joy in the Journey – Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. A blogger, writing instructor, and women’s ministry speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on FacebookTwitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).

12 comments:

  1. Good advice, Lori. It can also work the other way. For example, while working as an editor with a large defense contractor, the authors of a proposal wrote described a regional airport as having a grass runway. Living less than a mile from the airport in question and passing it every day on the way to work, I knew that it had a paved, asphalt runway, so I changed it. The authors changed it back. We editors changed it again. That went on for several iterations--and the authors won out. (I can't remember whether the company got the contract!) It just shows that we're all human, and we must choose our battles carefully.

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    1. Excellent point, Dennis. Each person in the process must be more committed to accuracy and less concerned about winning the battle. Did you ever think about taking a photograph?

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  2. Lori, Thank you for the great information. I have agreed with all my editors edits so far. However, I am a new writer.

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    1. So often the changes editors make are specific to a particular style guide, so they certainly know best. I loved my editor LPC editor, and now we even collaborate on projects.

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  3. Excellent article! Thank you. To my dismay, I have discovered that many young editors today are poorly prepared in their grammar skills. Our educational system does not, on the whole, adequately prepare students in this area, among others. A sad commentary on our culture!

    Blessings,

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    1. It's true, that's why politely disagreeing with proof to back you up is sometimes necessary. Thanks for chiming in.

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  4. "It’s important to keep in mind that disagreeing is far different than being disagreeable." -- I love that. Great advice. Thank you!

    Tessa
    www.christiswrite.blogspot.com

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    1. Manners and grace go a looooong way in whatever field we work

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  5. Thanks, Lori. The first few times I received comments from an editor I felt I had to follow their advice, even though I didn't like it! On the other hand, when my editor told me about changing from double spaces between sentences to single, I thought I'd have a hard time adjusting. Thankfully, I did not and now write with single space protocol!
    Always good to know our stories are in good hands, and edits and comments are to make the story stronger!
    ps, Dennis, that's too rich about the runway!

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    1. And Robin, the most challenging thing is that the rules keep changing, so, like the double space/single space issue, or the serial comma, what's correct one year may become incorrect the next. Thank the Lors for professionals who help us keep track of all this!

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  6. Great advice Lori. While I've not had much experience with editors yet, I've been misunderstood a couple of times. After discussing my disagreements, we came to a meeting of the minds.

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    1. Thankfully, most of the time all it takes is a polite exchange of ideas to straighten a disagreement out. But we all need to be willing to listen with an open mind. If we do, we might just learn something.

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