Top 5 Editor Pet Peeves

freelance writing advice 3by Joe Wallace

Editors are a busy lot. We’ve got typos to correct, abused commas that need first aid, and metaphors to un-mix. It’s a fulltime job. When you’ve got Glenn Beck misspelling “oligarchy” on national television, you know your inbox is going to be flooded with people writing “there” when they meant “they’re” and “affect” when they meant “effect”.

So how can you earn the undying gratitude of your poor, harried editor? By not committing one of these offenses that will, someday, be punishable by large fines and jail time:

5. Failure to follow instructions. This is often the case when simple, but important items like how to attribute a source are concerned. If the publication wants present tense, be OCD about it. “Johnny says the biggest thrill of his life was becoming a were-spider.” as opposed to “Johnny said being a were-spider is better than being a were-lobster”. If you just double check that little thing your editor wants, it saves a lot of trouble on the back end. And they love you for it.

4. Hazy relationships between your opening line, headlines, or photographs and your story content. It’s very important for all the elements in your story, article, or blog post to tie together somehow. If you write an article about Frankenstein’s monster, a picture of Dracula won’t help. A picture, headline, or metaphor in your story should serve to tie the whole together. Don’t make the reader guess. Or the editor.

3. Excuses. This one should be fairly self-explanatory, but I find many people still think we’re interested in WHY it wasn’t done right. “I know the article word count was 1000-1500 words, but Doctor Creamhorn was SO interesting, I had to let it run 3000 words.”

No. Respect the guidelines for the article. Exceptions are made for damn good reasons…and often the editor doesn’t think your reasons are “damn good”. Best practice–if you are going to have to break the guidelines, ask first. The editor respects that and will respect YOU.

2. Don’t break deadline. I can honestly say I’ve practically NEVER missed a deadline. Wanna know why? When I start running behind, I call the editor and ASK FOR A NEW DEADLINE. Simple.

1. Articles, blogs and stories without an ending. I call this the “Miami Vice problem” where the writer never resolves the main conflict in a particular story. Somebody gets shot or gets arrested, but the main plot thread goes dangling and not on purpose.

Put some kind of finishing thought at the end of your article or blog post—it reads better. In some cases–like this list, for example, no finishing thought is needed because we told you up front “Here are five editor pet peeves.” When you get to number five, you know the post is over.