When Editor and Author Disagree

I realize it’s a tough concept to grasp (not!), but sometimes editors and authors disagree during the editing process. When that happens, here are some tips to use.

  • A good book editor never changes an author’s voice or writing style. However, a good book editor should ask questions of the author regarding things that are unclear in the writing. If the editor doesn’t understand what the author is trying to say, the editor is not in a position to correct the manuscript.
  • A good book editor offers suggestions to the author on how something may be written more clearly for reader understanding. If the editor is confident about what the author’s intention is, it’s helpful when the editor offers suggestions that rewrite the sentence or paragraph so the author can see the editor’s point more clearly.
  • A good book editor understands authors know what they intend to say and thus it’s easy for authors to skip something they think is obvious but the reader may not. It’s the job of a good book editor to alert the author to those holes in the manuscript so the author can fill them in.
  • A good author never takes edits personally. Publishing is business. Books are in print (or on e-readers) a long time. Good authors realize good editors strive to improve the book, not attack the author.
  • A good author considers editor suggestions regarding content and clarity, then makes the decision on how to handle the suggestions.
  • A good author understands there are style manuals the editor follows (Chicago Manual of Style in the case of book editing) and allows the copy edits (punctuation, capitalization, subject-verb agreement, etc.) without argument.

There will be disagreements between editors and authors, but using these tips should help.

Happy writing!

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4 Responses to “When Editor and Author Disagree”


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  3. 3 Eline September 2, 2013 at 4:00 am

    I am an editor, and inasmuch as I want to retain most of what my writer submits, it is difficult for me. First because I really do not find the material “readable” and “publishable”. Second, I kind of doubt my writer’s capability to re-write their material (as they are not really writers, but teachers who are hired to be textbook writers) so I do the re-writing myself. I am a guilty violator of the first two statements. Since the writers are not in-house, and I feel that reaching them to raise questions about some changes I intend to do in the manuscript is too time-consuming, I do the re-writing and submit them both the altered and corrected versions.

    Looks like I need to shift my style of editing and just note suggestions about their writing style and let them do the job. This way I am not responsible for altering the tone of the writer’s material. 😉

  4. 4 African Man December 16, 2016 at 3:34 am

    thanks Eline for accepting to shift . Recently i submitted my manuscript to FunDza Literacy Publishers, actually i submitted it two weeks ago, and on the 14th of December 2016 i received back my edited fictional short story, i was horrified that it had been changed to a complete different story that had grammar mistakes as well. The flavor of the story had evaporated and my writing spirit was greatly affected. I have a BA in creative writing.


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