A few months ago, I found myself in a frustrating situation with an editor for a freelance assignment. I loved the assignments I was getting, and he gave glowing reviews and useful feedback on the work I was turning in. But sometimes the edits I saw in the final published work were… questionable. I’m no Yes-Man when it comes to work, but I also try to pick my battles, and I couldn’t decide whether challenging his edits was one worth engaging.
When should you question an Editor?
He’s got the reputation of his publication to maintain, so he makes the changes that fit the image he’s worked hard to cultivate. I’ve got my reputation as a writer to maintain, so I worry about the integrity of every article published with my name on it. So how do we reconcile disagreements?
Usually, I just bow my head and bite my tongue. While not exactly a boss, an editor is a lot like a boss. He’s in the position he’s in because someone has entrusted him with the oversight of less experienced people and the management of an organization. I’m in the position I’m in because I haven’t learned that much yet, and there’s a lot he can teach me. So I sit back quietly and let his changes slide. But sometimes…
What if those changes are so poorly done that I’m embarrassed to have them published under my name and alongside the rest of my writing? What if the words he interjects into my writing are so inconsistent with my voice that anyone who reads them can tell where I stop and his edits begin?
Maybe it’s best to just keep quiet.
I usually bite my tongue. I’m timid, and I don’t like unnecessary confrontation. A word or two, a short line, I can take it. I have a lot to learn yet, I’m grateful for the publication, and even more grateful to be paid for the work. But…
What if it’s really obvious? What if he shoves something into the article that any high school English teacher would slash with a giant red mark? Something that contradicts other things in the article, that compromises the whole point of what I’ve written without any explanation? Something that might cause another editor to dismiss me as an incompetent writer — because, after all, it’s my name on the byline!
At what point do I have a right to question my editor? I don’t want to say something that could sour a valuable relationship. I never want to overstep my bounds. I don’t want to be too attached to what I’ve written — the curse of so many artists. I don’t want to give any editor the impression that I harbor such self-satisfaction.
But I don’t want my articles tarnished by inconsiderate editing, either.
In the end, I let it go, and finished out the assignment without a hitch. I never confronted my editor about the changes he made to my articles. The work doesn’t seem to have suffered too badly for it, but I still wonder if maybe I should have said something, which is why I’ve brought it to this forum.
Maybe you have a better solution. Maybe I could handle it better next time and leave without a nagging feeling that I should have stood up for myself.
What would you do in this situation? How quick are you to respond to weird changes made by editors?
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