You’ve finished writing your piece; you’re filled with elation and a sense of achievement. Congratulations! You’ve now entered the realm of editing!
While it sometimes seems like this—that writing neatly occurs before editing—in truth, writing and editing are not necessarily two distinct processes. All good writing incorporates at least a modicum of editing; every writer goes back and re-reads their words to refine and rephrase their work. By the same token, good editing includes aspects of writing; anything beyond simple typographical and grammatical corrections requires the mind and skills of a writer.
These two activities, however, are most notably separated when they are performed by different people. When an author sends their material to a trusted editor to read it, critique it, and reshape it, something alchemical occurs: the content becomes streamlined and clean; it is transformed into something that—ideally—is even closer to the author’s original intention than what they wrote. Editors add symmetry and balance to the beautiful equation of writing. While a writer can edit, there will always be snaggles of language that the writer can’t untangle on their own, or repetitions and vagaries that only a skilled set of eyes can identify and alleviate. While there are writers who are capable of successfully editing themselves (see our blog post on Hemingway’s pithy advice to write drunk and edit sober), all writers benefit from the perspective of a professional editor to hone their work.