Editing is Service

The following post is written by Rachel Cannon, an undergraduate Fellow at the Center. 

Growing up, in school, I never liked the idea of someone editing my work. It felt intrusive, and my prideful self so intent on perfection didn’t want to be told how many mistakes I’d made and how imperfect my work was. This idea prevailed until I found myself pursuing an editing minor at BYU years later.

I have learned that editing is much more than someone trying to tell you all your mistakes and trying to point out all your faults. Its true purpose it to serve. It is not to tear someone down but to lift them up. The editor should not be the author’s adversary but rather the author’s advocate. The editor should help authors reach their goals of communicating effectively with their audience—to fulfill their purpose.

Along with this, I have learned that people are not perfect; we all will make mistakes in life and in our drafts of writing. Everyone can benefit from editing, even the best writers, and it is the best writers who usually understand this idea the clearest. And, even editors need editors.

The process of having your work edited only helps make any level of writing better. However, there are exceptions to this, which have caused many authors to resent any editing. These exceptions occur when editors have lost focus on or don’t understand the true purpose of editing and are not using editing as it is intended—to serve others. Instead they are using it to serve themselves. And this, I would argue, is not even editing, but is rather an impersonation of editing that only hinders the reputation of the editing field. We should not let a few bad experiences taint our view of editing. Ultimately, as writers, our goal is to reach people with the written word, which can be better achieved with the help of editors. We can gain so much from the process of editing.

The next time you have the opportunity to have your work edited or to edit someone’s work, remember the true purpose of editing is to serve. And for writers, remember by experiencing this process your works will better serve your readers.

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