Being Edited to Excess? Try Editor Bait

When a crummy editor absolutely has to find “mistakes,” give them some! Intentional mistakes and awkward phrases in copy will attract the editor’s red pencil and protect your good text. Be careful never to give editor bait to a good editor.

Being Edited Is Part of Life as a Writer

You write a first draft, tighten it up, re-read it and tinker some more, realize it’s 123 words too long, squeeze out more words, read it over, realize you removed an important paragraph link, fix it, edit some more.  Perfect!

Then you hand this polished gem into your editor.  And he or she screws with it!

Sound familiar?  Writers and editors have been described as “natural enemies.” Here’s the unfortunate truth:  Editors are paid to screw with writers.  Editors may even sense that messing with your words is a mistake and feel bad about it.  And it can be a lot of  work to mess with a well written piece, only to put it back in shape.

True story from the olden days:

A newspaper editor was fired for crossing out words and replacing them with the identical words.  If you are a writer, this story may tug at your heart strings:  Maybe the guy finally realized that writers work hard to get it right.

Not All Editors are Evil

If your stuff is good, good editors will leave it alone, and if it just needs shortening, some editors will give you a chance to cut it.  A good editor will make you a better writer.

Then there are the others. When your copy has been running “as is” without being edited by previous editors, and suddenly your new editor  starts messing with stuff, and NOT MAKING IT BETTER, you may be dealing with an incompetent justifying his or her existence.  An editor may have a combination of problems leading to this behavior: insecurity, not being too smart, desire to please his or her superior, not being all that smart.  It may be time for you to carefully introduce editor bait.

What is Editor Bait?

When a crummy editor absolutely has to find “mistakes,” give them some! Intentional mistakes and awkward phrases in copy will attract the editor’s red pencil and protect your good text.   Be careful never to give editor bait to a good editor.  Be subtle.  Not capitalizing “napoleon bonaparte” might be a an honest (wink, wink) mistake. But even when baiting an extremely obtuse editor, be careful.  You might be tempted to throw in a phrase like “enjoyed most by squirrel touchers.”  This is going too far. “Paris in the the spring” is better.  They like to fix  that one.

Seriously, if you are stooping to such tactics to avoid bad editing, you may want to look for another job, market your freelance talents elsewhere , or adopt a more “philosophical” attitude.  Check out a great article by Will Kenny.

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