How to Communicate With Your Editor
One of the most important steps you can take to ensure a positive experience with your editor is to communicate your needs and expectations clearly when you submit your document for review. You might assume that your editor is the professional and knows exactly what to do, but editors differ in their approaches and ideas about what your document needs. While any editor can revise your document to remove grammatical errors and typos, editing can involve additional aspects you may not have considered. Before you submit a document for review, ask yourself the following questions:
1. “Do I have a specific style or formatting guide that I need to follow?” If you need APA, Chicago, or MLA, let your editor know. Even if you need specific formatting tailored to your institution’s dissertation guidelines or if you want to publish in a particular journal, tell your editor. The more information you can provide, the better.
2. “Does my academic advisor or supervisor want me to adhere to certain conventions?” For example, your advisor or supervisor might want you to remove all instances of passive voice, use of the first person (I, We) or second person (You), or even something as specific as limiting block quotes or describing previous research in the present tense. There is no reason to feel nervous about telling your editor what you want.
3. “What tone does my document need?” Depending on the type of writing, tone can vary widely. Consider the differences in tone you might observe in blog posts, scientific papers, a chapter from a humorous novel, a cover letter for a job application, or even a letter of resignation. Feel free to let your editor know the context of the document you plan to submit so he or she can help you tailor the phrasing most appropriately. If you are unsure how to explain the tone you want, you can say something like “informal but professional,” “objective and authoritative,” or “enthusiastic and positive.” You can also help your editor by telling him or her the target audience for your writing, such as “young adults,” “industry professionals,” or “the general public.”
4. “Do I need to meet a specific word count?” If so, decide whether you are comfortable allowing your editor to eliminate redundant text or offering suggestions for sections that need additional information.
5. “Do I want suggestions about how to improve my vocabulary or language?” For example, if English is your second language, you can ask your editor to enhance your vocabulary or revise the phrasing to read as if a native English speaker wrote it. While such choices are personal, consider whether you would like your editor to make these revisions for you.
6. “Do I want my editor to address the flow and organization of my document?” Your editor might find that some paragraphs flow better if you switch the order in which they appear or that your document needs some transitions between paragraphs. Let your editor know if he or she should address these issues or if you want your editor to leave the organization as is.
7. “Are there certain aspects of my document that I do not want my editor to address?” If you have included placeholders for yourself for citations or if you have highlighted text you plan to return to later, let your editor know when you submit your document.
Your editor wants to help you polish and improve your document and wants you to feel proud to use the product they return to you. However, when you and your editor have different ideas about how your document should look, it becomes less likely that you will be fully satisfied with the product you receive. Even worse, you may need to resubmit your document for additional edits. Thorough and effective communication early in the editing process will save you time and money, and will enable your editor to provide you with the perfect document you have in mind.