30 Things I Learned in 30 Days As a New Editor

Transitioning from a writer to a Technical Editor at Hongkiat.com (HKDC) has been an enriching journey. With about a year of writing experience, I’ve stepped into my first editorial role, learning the ropes under the guidance of an adept editorial team.

In this piece, I aim to share my experiences and insights with readers, fellow writers, and budding editors. This is an exploration of my journey from a writer to an editor. For those interested in the HKDC editorial process, I’ll touch on that first. However, feel free to skip to the next section for a dive into my practical experiences.

A Glimpse into Our Editorial Process

Let’s take a quick tour of our 10-step editorial process:

  1. Our journey begins with receiving the raw articles from our talented writers.
  2. The initial review phase helps us determine if the article is fit for publishing. This includes checking for originality and relevance in areas like design, development, technology, and entrepreneurship.
  3. Next is the technical editing stage. Here, we rigorously verify facts, test any included code, and assess recommended software, apps, or tips. We also scrutinize the external links provided in the article.
  4. Another crucial aspect of technical editing is the structural checkup, ensuring each article has a clear and logical flow.
  5. If we spot technical issues or areas needing clarification, we return the article to the author for revisions. This back-and-forth can occur multiple times.
  6. Once technical and structural concerns are resolved, we move to language editing. This step involves correcting stylistic and grammatical errors and performing an initial SEO check.
  7. We then format the post in proper HTML. This task is interwoven with technical and language editing, with various team members contributing.
  8. Subsequently, a thorough proofreading session takes place.
  9. We then focus on graphics, ensuring they are appropriate and well-integrated into the post.
  10. Finally, the post is scheduled for publication.

This process can span weeks, with the article moving between editors and often revisiting the writer for further refinement.

Key Lessons from My Editorial Journey

Insights into the Editing Process

1. The Unexpectedly Long Path to Publication

Before becoming an editor, I underestimated the extensive effort behind each post. I used to think writers were the crux of a magazine, but now, as an editor, I see our role is equally pivotal. Join me as I delve into why I believe this.

2. The Critical Importance of Meeting Deadlines

For editors, deadlines are incredibly stringent compared to those of writers. A writer’s slight delay might not cause a stir, but an editor missing a deadline can disrupt the entire publication schedule. This highlights the value of having multiple editors in a team to maintain smooth operations.

3. The Value of Version Control in Editing

Editing often involves revisiting earlier drafts for a better result. Here, version control tools are indispensable. Keeping the original draft is also crucial for resolving any potential disputes with writers.

4. Navigating First Drafts with Color and Care

There’s no set standard for marking issues in first drafts. While some editors use the <del> tag, leading to a plethora of deletions, I prefer the <mark> tag for a less intimidating, colorful approach. It seems less frustrating for writers than seeing their work crossed out.

5. Establishing Your Own Style Guidelines

Deciding on handling minor style errors, like exaggerations, word repetitions, tautologies, and clichés, can be tricky. I’ve learned it’s beneficial to set personal style rules for consistency and efficiency.

6. Balancing Editing and Writer Collaboration

It’s crucial to decide what to edit directly and what to send back for writers to revise. I’ve found that substantial changes and additions are better sent back to writers to avoid altering their original voice too much.

7. Editing: The Unseen Art of Perfection

As an editor, your best work goes unnoticed – it’s only when readers encounter issues that the absence or inadequacy of editing is called out. At HKDC, we’re fortunate to have writers who invest heavily in their articles, making our job a bit easier.

8. The Inevitability of Errors

No matter how hard we work, some errors inevitably slip through. Despite a meticulous editorial process, these oversights often go unnoticed until pointed out by our observant readers.

The Truths About Self-Editing in Freelance Writing

The Truths About Self-Editing in Freelance Writing

Marketers are looking for great content and the writers that provide it. This does not mean that the... Read more

Challenges of the Technical Editing Process

9. Frequent Computer Freezes Are Part of the Job

As a technical editor, juggling various testing environments is a norm. Each article demands a unique software stack and configuration. It’s essential to maintain a dedicated browser for testing, free from extensions that might interfere with your code testing. Regularly installing fresh software like WordPress is crucial, as repeated tests can subtly alter databases. Be prepared for frequent computer freezes and a potentially shorter computer lifespan.

10. The Dilemma of Fixing Others’ Code

Dealing with buggy code submissions is common. Sometimes, writers may not fully grasp the logic of their code, often due to copy-paste programming. The challenge lies in deciding whether to correct their code. Our role isn’t to teach coding, but to ensure the submitted code is sound.

11. The Endless Journey of Fact-Checking

Fact-checking can be exceedingly time-consuming. Some articles require verifying facts in nearly every other sentence. Using reliable sources is essential. This extends to examining outbound links and the origins of submitted graphics. Just when you think you’ve covered everything, there’s often something small that slips through.

12. Embracing Emmet as an Essential Tool

Handling vast amounts of HTML means that speeding up your workflow is critical. Tools like Emmet become invaluable in increasing typing efficiency. They quickly transition from helpful to indispensable in our editorial environment.

Navigating the Unique Skills of Editing

13. The Distinct Skill Set of Editing Compared to Writing

Editing demands a vastly different skill set than writing. Being adept at one doesn’t automatically make you proficient at the other. As a writer-turned-editor, I’m still evaluating my editing abilities. Effective communication, often challenging for an introvert like myself, is a critical part of this job. So, it’s important to recognize that writing skills don’t directly translate to editing prowess.

14. The Essential Role of Empathy in Editing

As an editor, you’ll interact with a diverse range of people, each requiring understanding and fair treatment. You’ll encounter various challenges: poorly structured articles, missed deadlines, disappearing writers, and baffling technical errors. Empathy is vital in this role, but balancing it with firmness is key to avoid overstepping into the writer’s domain. My background as a writer aids in empathizing with writers while discerning what’s acceptable.

15. Valuing Broad Knowledge Over Deep Expertise in Editing

While depth of knowledge is crucial in coding and writing, editing values breadth more. It’s important to stay abreast of a wide array of topics, industry trends, and competitor activities. Keeping up-to-date in a dynamic field like technology requires substantial time but is rewarding for those passionate about their field.

16. Mastering the Art of Respectful Criticism

As an editor, it’s crucial to provide criticism respectfully and professionally. Determining what to say and what to omit can be challenging. As a beginner, seeking advice from more experienced colleagues has been invaluable for me. Their input has guided me in handling delicate situations effectively.

17. Continuously Learning About Grammar

For those passionate about grammar, editing is an endless journey of discovery. You’ll often encounter unusual grammatical structures. Deciding whether to correct an error or ask the writer for clarification is a common dilemma. I usually fix simple issues myself, but for complex or unclear sentences, I find it best to seek clarification from the writer.

18. The Inefficiency of Multitasking in Editing

My experience suggests that multitasking is ineffective in editing. While others might feel differently, I find it impossible to edit an article, communicate with writers, respond to emails, and test code simultaneously without feeling overwhelmed. Focusing on tasks sequentially allows me to remain calm and efficient throughout the day. This approach might vary from person to person.

Understanding Writers’ Skills from an Editor’s Perspective

19. The Effort Behind Conversational Writing

At HKDC, our conversational writing style might give the impression that it’s effortless. However, this seemingly easy-going tone often masks the hard work of thorough research and careful crafting. New writers sometimes produce ‘balloon posts’—stylish and trendy but lacking substance. As an editor, dealing with such posts enhances my communication skills, guiding writers towards more research-intensive writing.

20. The Importance of Writers’ In-depth Knowledge

It’s only as an editor that one truly appreciates the depth of knowledge writers possess. Writers need a profound understanding of their topics, something I realized when encountering articles that lacked this depth. Challenging writers to approach their topic from different angles can be revealing of their true grasp of the subject.

21. The Challenge of Excessive Expertise

Surprisingly, excessive knowledge can be problematic. Some writers possess such advanced understanding that they struggle to simplify concepts for a general audience. Fortunately, this is rectifiable by identifying complex parts and asking writers to rephrase them for broader accessibility.

22. The Difficulty in Editing Free Association Posts

Editing posts with free associations is challenging. These pieces might have solid research but lack coherent structure, making them hard to follow. In my first month, I’ve tackled posts that, while accurate, felt like disjointed puzzles. Restructuring such articles is labor-intensive but necessary. Suggesting that writers submit outlines can prevent the need for extensive restructuring.

23. Addressing Plagiarism in Submissions

Some writers underestimate an editor’s ability to detect plagiarism, even boldly submitting content copied from other sources or our own site. Such practices are easily recognized, and submissions based on plagiarism are disregarded. This experience underscores the importance of originality in content creation.

The Dynamics of Editor-Writer Relationships

24. Learning from Writers

One of the best aspects of being an editor is the opportunity to learn from writers. They are often creative, knowledgeable, and brimming with ideas. The editor’s desk becomes a hub for this continuous influx of knowledge, creativity, and diversity, offering an unparalleled learning experience.

25. The Power of Guidance in Enhancing Writers’ Skills

Guidance can significantly uplift a writer’s capabilities. Often, a small suggestion or a new perspective on a topic can lead to marked improvements in their work. As an editor, it’s crucial to balance the amount of feedback provided. Through experience, I’ve learned to gauge the right amount of guidance that writers can assimilate effectively, tailoring my approach to each writer’s unique needs.

26. The Importance of Clear Communication in Editing

Clear and simple communication is key in guiding writers effectively. Labeling the changes you request, such as using terms like “addition,” “clarification,” or “modification,” helps minimize misunderstandings and ensures that writers understand exactly what is needed.

27. The Efficiency of Concise Communication

Initially, my desire to be polite led to overly lengthy emails. Over time, I’ve learned that concise communication is more effective, particularly in a professional setting. Emulating the brevity found in Agile methodology has proven to be efficient in maintaining clear and focused interactions.

28. Managing Writers’ Expectations in Response Times

Editors are often swamped with tasks, leading to situations where writers may have to wait days or even a week for a response. This delay, unfortunately, can cause some less patient writers to feel neglected or rejected. In reality, editors are juggling numerous submissions, each requiring detailed review and discussion. Writers are encouraged to check in for updates on their submissions, as staying informed can ease concerns about response times.

29. Offering Choices Over Directives

Following advice from our experienced editor Singyin, I’ve learned the effectiveness of offering writers choices rather than directives. This approach respects their input and ownership over their work. When facing significant revisions, particularly structural or technical ones, it’s beneficial to ask writers whether they prefer to undertake the additional work or submit a new article. This empowers them to align their efforts with their expertise and interest, often leading to higher quality outcomes.

30. Treating Writers as Collaborative Partners

In creative fields like writing, a collaborative approach yields better results than traditional management styles. Treating writers as partners, allowing them autonomy and choice in their work, nurtures their creativity and passion. Recommending rather than dictating topics lets writers explore subjects they are genuinely interested in, enhancing the quality and authenticity of their work. As an editor, acting as a catalyst for creativity rather than a controlling force not only benefits the writers but also makes the editorial process more enjoyable and less stressful.