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Why Every Writer (And Even Editor) Needs An Editor

Why Every Writer (And Even Editor) Needs An Editor

Photo Credit: bravenewtraveler via Compfight cc

Ask any writer around you – it’s always tempting to conclude that a write-up is good enough after the writing. But that’s a trap you never should fall for.

Few weeks ago, an adept writer friend sent me his book manuscript for editing. I had thought he was a good-enough writer who needed no editor. While the book is well written and logically structured, I pointed out over 30 unpardonable mistakes in it with important suggestions for improvements.

He was startled. He said he had edited it twice before and had thought it was perfect.

Then my turn

Less than two weeks later, the manuscript of my new book, Vertical Writing, was ready. After editing it vigorously using the best editing tactics, I enlisted the help of a team of 4 editor friends each working independently.

Although I encouraged them to do a critical check-over on the manuscript, I had thought they would only have a look and not find corrections to make, considering how well I’ve edited it myself.

I was wrong! I received very helpful comments on some typographical and grammatical errors in the manuscript and profound recommendations on improving the already stellar book.

If this leaves us with anything, it is that every writer needs an editor to check his work, especially longer ones like books, research papers and reports.

There are at least 3 reasons for this.

#1: Editing polishes writing

Editing polishes a piece and makes it detailed without being superfluous. Like Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit”. My realization from this is profound:

When you lay bricks with mortar, you don’t call it a house. You plaster it first. That’s how editing is to writing. [Tweet that]

#2: You can’t judge yourself well

Errors in write ups have a tendency to escape the prying eyes of their writer. Like the Yorubas would tell you, fari fari ko le fari ara re – no barber is good enough to cut his own hair.

You may not need an editor for short pieces. But when you write a book or a long report, it will be smart to get others’ help. This may be your friends, fellow writers or, if you have a budget, a professional editor.

#3: Smart writers have editors

Some folks think only beginner writers need editors. It’s not so, because no one knows it all. That’s why articles written by even professors in their fields of specialization are peer reviewed. As William Strunk advised in his book, The Elements of Style, “Remember, it is not sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery. This is a common occurrence in all writing, and among the best writers.”

But don’t become a virus

The editor’s work is not to clean your mess. You don’t finish the first draft and send it to an editor with errors which you can as well correct yourself. I see many writers do this. Instead of this, you should first edit your work to the best of your ability.

Also, people ask me almost daily if they can send over their pieces for critique. Honestly, I always like to help – and I used to – but my schedule won’t accommodate such again.

Be largely self-sufficient

In addition to my advice for beginner writers, what I advocate is self-sufficiency. When you’re armed with the right tools, you’ll have little need for an editor, especially for shorter pieces like articles and contest entries.

If you want to learn how to improve your grammar mastery (and why should you not want to?), I recommend you get and digest Elements of Style by William Strunk.

Or better still, if you want a complete step-by-step walkthrough on writing sterling essays, get a copy of my fast-selling book, Vertical Writing. It currently sells at 20% discount till 13th October, 2013. If you can afford it, the book will lift you far above your peers.

Question: Do you give your works to others for editing? Does this help at all? Please leave a comment below.

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-- Dr. Mahfouz A. Adedimeji | Fulbright scholar | Senior Lecturer, Unilorin | newspaper columnist

About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.


  1. I don’t even know anybody capable of editing my work.

  2. Nice job, as always. Do i give my work for others to edit? Yes, i very much do, and it has helped a lot. Not just for the typos or the grammatical inadequacies but for the sense in my books. I write fiction, basically, and at times certain events or scenarios that i portray just don’t fit properly into the overall scheme. So i get people telling me, ‘take out that scene, it does not add well with your story’ or ‘take out that paragraph, you are doing too much explaining’.
    Before i was very lazy when it comes to editing, but i have since learned its importance. Its value cannot be over-emphasized.

  3. From what i read above, it seems i do not really need an editor for contest entries if i got it right.

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