Editing Essentials: How To Be A Good Editor?

Written By: Nandini Muralidharan

If you thought editors are those who just love picking on other people’s mistakes, you may be right. But what about good editors? Surely there’s more to it? Without a good editor, an article or publication will likely end up half-baked, and nothing ruins a good read like bad editing does. Here are some traits that you will find a lot of good editors share:

Have an in-depth knowledge of the subject: It isn’t enough if an editor is familiar with the subject matter he or she is editing. To do a good editing job, you as an editor need to have excellent knowledge of the subject. When a writer turns in a piece, you will need to understand what aligns with the publication’s requirements and what changes you will need to make.

Have a strong command over the language: Recently I read a book by a budding Indian author, and came across the phrase “reply back”, as in “I will reply back to her email”, multiple times. I had come to believe that “back” is redundant while replying, but I was confused after reading the book, not willing to acknowledge that the editor of a prestigious publishing house may be wrong. So the point here is, don’t leave any room for incorrect grammar.  It just kills the article for readers, and they simply move on to the next one.

Sport a great attitude: As an editor, you will work with writers, sources, and publishers. So it is of cardinal importance that you have superb interpersonal skills. Treat writers as peers, and not subordinates, because if they don’t like your attitude, you’re not going to have an article to edit. Give praise for work well done.

Keep abreast of latest technology: Can you imagine staring at the computer screen wondering what you’re supposed to do? It’s a little hard to believe, but a lot of editors are still not comfortable with computer software and tools that they need to use for their daily jobs. Yes, technology does change before you blink twice, but you need to make an effort on an ongoing basis to keep pace.

Can you take calls – tough or otherwise? 

Decision-making is something that all of us love to avoid. But as a good editor, you have to be able to take a call. Initially, after a quick read, decide whether it is worth spending time editing the piece. When you’ve decided to go ahead, decisions need to be taken regarding keeping sources anonymous, or where you should post the piece.

Another very crucial thing an editor often forgets is that it is ok to leave a piece as it is when it has the essence of what needs to be conveyed (of course, correct grammar being a given). You have to have the self-confidence to say, “this is some great work, I don’t really need to mess around with it.” 

About Nandini: Nandini is an engineer-turned-writer, possessive bibliophile and a travel junkie. She loves collecting random bits of information about any place she visits, and weaving a story out of it. You can find her favorite travel experiences at http://wayswetravel.com/She's an obsessive photographer who records any memory of a place from the beautiful Helsingor castle to the “Delizia icecream – keeps you tongue tied” signboard on the highway.


  1. I am a fiction writer.What are your mission to help authors like me who due to passion write in English after retirement.

  2. Editor should be good at language/grammer/style. Because an editor cannot be master in thousands of subjects rather refining content.


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