Saturday, August 27, 2011

Every writer needs an editor

I was asking my freelance writers and editors group who they get to edit their stories, and I was shocked. One writer said that she didn't need an editor. She's a good writer and self-editor and doesn't make spelling or factual mistakes.

She was wrong. I'm a good writer and terrific self-editor, and I always feel nervous when I throw my blogs out there with no one reading them in advance. I constantly write with instead of who or that instead of than. I flip-flop words or transpose letters in a single word. Even though I push tight writing, I get wordy. I can't help it; I'm human.

In the 1990s, I was the auto-racing writer for a newspaper, and on Saturdays I'd be given the auto-racing page to design. Naturally, my column would go on that page, and I'd ask nearly everyone in the sports and news departments to read it. I make mistakes, and I need an editor.

And that writer needs an editor, whether she thinks so or not.

Another writer on the freelance network has family members edit her stories or articles. She says that they're all educated and have a writing background. I can understand this writer's feelings, since I have my wife read my magazine or newspaper stories for errors. Of course, my wife is a copy editor at the local newspaper. Different kettle of fish.

My advice: Find a good editor, whether it's a family member who has a degree in English or a professional like me. Don't take chances.

But unless your Uncle Joe is a professional editor, I'm a much better option.

P.S.: Check out the blog Good Writing Needs Editing.

Contact: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie


  1. +1, as the kids say. Roger Angell, who knows a thing or two about writing, once said this:

    "Every writer needs a good editor. All of them, even the best. It's interesting that the older and best-known and most professional writers are the ones who really appreciate an editor. Young writers are terrified. They think, 'What I've done should not be touched.'"

    I will also venture to observe that in these "I don't need an editor" discussions, the writer is probably thinking only about things like minor grammatical errors and typos. Whereas editing encompasses such issues as identifying who exactly the writer is talking to, and why they need the information; whether the information is being presented in a logical and useful order; whether it contains fluff or obscurity, or is simply incomplete; etc.

  2. Yeah, without an editor you work may cmoe tuo klookngi klie tish. Err...I mean may come out looking like this. :)

  3. Hi, Eric. Thanks for the comment. I'm a bit dyslexic, and I once was just typing along and I looked up and realized I'd spelled a six-letter word sdrawkcab.