“Can’t You Just Run a Spell Check?”

Good editors are advocates, not adversaries.
Ray Robinson

If we had a nickel for every time someone asked us, “Can’t people just run a spell check?” when we tell them that we are editors, we would be able to edit others’ writing for fun instead of for our livelihood. Aside from the fact that word-processing software cannot possibly flag every misspelling in a document, editing involves considerably more than ensuring proper spelling. (Check out our “What We Do” page for more information.)

Publisher Ray Robinson offers a number of explanations for why editing is so important in his 2010 article “The Editor: Friend or Foe?” Chiefly among them is the idea that an editor serves as an advocate for writers, not as an adversary. “As arbiters of clear communication, editors intercept the blips that will irritate or confound readers and disengage them from your work,” he writes. “Readers expect professionalism and easy reading out of a published work. So, rather than face the potential onslaught of criticism, enlist an editor. This editor will function as a sympathetic but firm ‘test audience’ who is on your side. Help your editor help you.”

This is indeed a philosophy to which we wholeheartedly subscribe. In describing the nature of our work to others, we frequently explain that we partner with clients to help them create their best possible work. We are not simply grammar police. We are not merely syntax enforcement professionals. And we certainly are not in the business of scoffing and sneering at writers’ efforts and undermining their hard work with haughty denunciations. We team up with writers to help them achieve their best work and to facilitate their readers in the enjoyment of that work. We are all on the same side, and we all want the same end result: high-quality manuscripts.

There are a lot of excellent reasons to partner with an editor. As Robinson notes, “editors work with readers’ best interest in mind” and help writers “get their message across to their potential readers, keeping them hooked from the first page to the last.” By working with writers to increase their work’s clarity, editors can help writers to present themselves and their message accurately and convey credibility. The bottom line is that editors help writers to create their best possible product.

For a couple of other excellent articles about why editing is so important, consider checking out Catherine, Caffeinated’s 2013 article “Why Hire an Editor?” and Elisabeth Kauffman’s 2014 article “So You’ve Decided to Hire a Freelance Editor.”

Remember … good editors are advocates, not adversaries.