Toxic Editing: I Don’t Need You to Mark My Paper

Toxic Editing: I Don’t Need You to Mark My Paper

I get it. The Medium community is trying to be helpful. But sometimes it’s a little toxic.

Out of nowhere, people come and mark up your writing like they were the master editor of all master editors.

“Comma here, bad spelling here, missing ‘to’ here…”

Or they tell you that you shouldn’t hit a carriage return after every sentence, because, let’s face it, their reading preferences are far more important than anyone else’s.

Give me a better explanation. I’m willing to hear it. But I’ve read W3C’s website and what they have to say on the matter, and they say to use short sentences and paragraphs to improve usability and accessibility.

So, before you get too carried away, oh mighty overstudied grade three English teacher, let’s set a few things straight.

English is Not English

The first time I saw the word “mum” I was sure it was slang or a misspelling. But I did some research, and I stood corrected – that is the accurate spelling in the UK.

American, Canadian, and Australian English all have certain nuances. I know because as a ghostwriter of hundreds if not thousands of blog articles, I’ve had to navigate these differences at times.

Your cereal box AI writing assistant may have told you otherwise, but to the audience I was writing to, I was using the correct spellings.

Never, ever, ever become too reliant on machines to tell you what good writing is. That’s plain lazy and often objectively false. And it fails to consider the audience. Which brings me to my next point…

Audience Matters

I have been in the music business for a long time. I write to my audience in a particular way, because of what I know about them. And I have received many compliments for my work.

Understand – I would not write the same way to people reading a book about psychology, for example.

So, if I sneak in a creative sentence or two, don’t be alarmed! It could be that I’m creating a connection with my audience, or it could also be that I’m intentionally getting my readers to stop and think about what I just said.

You can’t write the way everyone else does and expect to get different results. You’ve got to interrupt patterns to stand out.

You can’t write the way everyone else does and expect to get different results. You’ve got to interrupt patterns to stand out. Click To Tweet

There is more intentionality behind the way I write than you might be inclined to think. Again, I’m a seasoned ghostwriter for industries and niches too numerous to mention, so why shouldn’t that be the case?

On occasion, I have also been known to share a work in progress on Medium, pieces that have yet to be polished to the nth degree. I should not be made a martyr for that!

Writers Should be Allowed to Take Creative Liberties

What is English, if not one of the most flexible languages in existence? If we truly want our writing to stand out, why shouldn’t we let ourselves go a little crazy from time to time?

As history has shown, language is not some set-in-stone, set-and-forget thing. The way we talk and the words we use is continually evolving.

I had to look up “AF” and “SMH” when everyone and their dog started using these texting abbreviations like they were hotter than the latest Taylor Swift track. Because I could give a crap about trends.

The point is – what is considered an incorrect sentence one day suddenly becomes the most hauntingly beautiful the next.

I’m not saying that one should break the language. I think basic conventions are well worth following.

But don’t you let yourself go crazy from time to time? Haven’t you ever attempted to craft the weirdest sentence you could?

You should give it a try sometime. It’s liberating.

Final Thoughts

Look, I understand that some of you truly are trying to be helpful. I assure you your work is appreciated by some members of the community.

You may still want to consider who you’re criticizing before you do it though.

I am in no way saying I’m beyond reproach but as the self-published best-selling author of seven books and thousands of blog articles, I have a good handle on what works and what doesn’t.

(It’s amazing how many people don’t even understand the topics they’re writing about…)

I do enlist the help of a capable editor when I need it, but as an editor myself, I do have the ability to self-edit, and you won’t find too many writers who can do that well.

So, kindly find another article to lambast. I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.

When You Want Things a Certain Way

When You Want Things a Certain Way

It’s understandable.

You empowered your team. You set them up with all the resources you could have possibly set them up with to get the job done correctly. You gave them the style guide, external links, and a brief including all the relevant keywords.

But the deliverable doesn’t meet expectations. So, naturally, you feel you have the right to come down hard on your team. “Do this, change that, why wasn’t this explained better,” and so on.

Indeed, approval is a process, and the first draft isn’t always the spitting image of perfection incarnate. Some patience is required during the editing phase.

But there is a point at which you’re crossing a line from editing and polishing into nitpicking and torturing.

I always find it funny when a client wants me to delete a comma. It would have been quicker for them to use their own time for discretionary editing.

What was supposed to be a 1,200-word post suddenly balloons into 1,500 words. All the while, the back and forth isn’t necessarily getting all the rather subjective issues resolved.

Who is the final decision maker? Once the project has reached 80% integrity, it would be in the best interest of efficiency to have a designated master editor make the final tweaks.

Everyone wants things a certain way. But no one person would ever agree on all changes and revisions. That’s why you need a designated master editor. Once the project has passed the editor’s filters, it should be considered complete.

Think about how this applies to your projects and leadership. Is there a structure missing? What is your plan?

Why I Won’t Learn Anything from Your Edits

Why I Won’t Learn Anything from Your Edits

Every company has a specific way they like to communicate their message through their content. Some are a little more free flowing with it, some have detailed style guides to explain in explicit detail what they’re looking for.

I’ve written content for a variety of companies, and there are some who like to suggest a myriad of edits for their blog posts and ask me to review them.

The unfortunate reality is we’re not going to agree on things like:

  • Whether it’s “barriers to entry” or “barriers for entry” (for me, it will always be the former).
  • Whether to include a “to” in “it helps to bolster your marketing strategy” (I would rephrase entirely, turning it into “it bolsters your marketing strategy” and avoid the “to” altogether).
  • Whether a formula should appear after or before a carriage return (I tend towards the former).
  • Whether to center align or right align an image caption (my default is center). Chances are you will need to adjust your formatting once you’ve copied the content into your content management system anyway.

So, precious time is wasted in Google Docs clicking checkmarks to approve these changes while I could be dedicating more time to pressing deadlines.

The only way I will learn the way you like to write is if you give me specific feedback on why you do things the way you do. Without context, your suggested changes appear a nitpick.

You’ll prefer to have things written a certain way, and I can appreciate that. Unfortunately, I did not go to mind-reading school, and require you to generate the dartboard. Without that, I will simply aim to fulfill on your basic word count and style requirements and move onto my next urgent assignment.

You may have found a clever way to rework and polish my prose, but let’s remember who wrote it in the first place. Without my writing, you would still be staring at a blank page.

If all you are looking for is a draft, freely edit to your desired end. I will not know the mental framework you applied to arrive at the conclusions you did. No context, no learning. I do not need to be a part of it unless specific guidance is given.

No context, no learning. Click To Tweet

From a mile high view, there’s too much “we just need a writer” thinking and not enough “we want this specific writer because…” thinking.