Why you shouldn’t want to be a good editor

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Sometimes, your desire to be a good editor can be the biggest problem standing in your way….

I know the subject line of this post might seem a little odd — counterintuitive, even.

Why shouldn’t you want to be a good editor? Wouldn’t every writer on the planet want to be a better editor of their own work? Where, exactly, is the harm in being a good editor?

Well, to be honest, there’s absolutely no harm in the good editing part. I salute good editors around the world. We need more of them, and if I can help some bad editors become good ones and good ones become great ones, I’m ready to dive in.

The problem is the word want.

Think about how you might use this word:

  • I want a new car. Maybe a hybrid. Maybe an electric. Maybe just something with that new car smell.
  • I want a new house/apartment. I don’t have enough room. I don’t have enough storage. I don’t have enough light.
  • I want a new partner. My partner is too boring/demanding/scornful/impatient/too fill in the blank: ____.
  • I want a better job. I’m not paid enough. My work isn’t interesting enough. The commute is too tiring. I hate my boss.

Understand, I’m not criticizing you for having any of these wants at all. Your reasons for wanting a new car, house, partner or job may be perfectly valid and important, but notice how the want always focuses on you.

You want it, dammit, and you’re willing to work for it, so why shouldn’t you be able to get it?

And that’s the key problem with wanting to be a good editor. The want stands at cross-purposes with your objective.

You’re focusing on you.

Your needs. Your desires. Your hopes. Your plans. Your goals.

Maybe you want to impress your boss with your writing. Or produce a bestseller. Or have your colleagues look at you with more respect. Or persuade more people to buy your product. Or convince a client to pay you more money.

And, indeed, good editing might help you achieve any of these goals.

But a big problem remains: editing is not about you. It’s about your readers.

You don’t produce well-edited copy by making your writing better for yourself. After all, you already know what you wanted to say.

You edit to make reading better for someone else. The text needs to become more interesting, less confusing, more persuasive, better organized — for your reader.

Not for you.

So, if you really want to become a good editor, stop thinking about yourself. Instead, focus 100% on your reader.

It will help if you can learn to read your own work as if you weren’t the person who wrote it. Put yourself in the mindset of your readers. Do what some method actors do and imagine yourself to be your reader.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. I’ve been an editor for more than 40 years, and I’m about to release a brand-new course on how to become a better editor. I’d originally thought I’d make editing the subject of my next book, but I soon realized that words on paper wouldn’t offer an experience that was “hands-on” enough for editing.

The course is called Masterful Editing, and it’s a 21-day workshop designed to help you implement an effective system for editing. It will require just 30 to 45 minutes of your time each day.

You’ll pick a document of your own to edit, and I’ll walk you through, day by day, a detailed and easy-to-follow plan for how to edit it. There are instructions for all different types of writers, including academic ones. You’ll come away with checklists, cheat-sheets and everything in place, all ready to go. The course starts next week and wraps up just before American Thanksgiving.

Would you like to join us? For more information, just email me here.


My video podcast last week talked about how to become a freelance writer. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


Need some help developing a better writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.


Have you ever struggled with wanting to become a good editor? What have you done about it? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. If you comment on today’s post (or any others) by Oct. 31/23, I’ll put you a draw for a digital copy for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To enter, please scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!

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