How editing works

Red ink, photo by Simeon Berg

Previously we looked at pitching and assignment letters, now we’ll take a look at what happens during editing, both from the writer’s perspective and the editor’s.

First of all, it’s worth stating that editing is a process. It takes time.

When you send in your first draft, it should be free of errors, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done. Every writer needs an editor. (Yes, even our editors! So, pleaseĀ send us any typos you spot.)

There are several different kinds of editing that occur before an article sees print (or print-like pixels), but the first pass is substantive editing, which focuses on the content and organization (structure and flow) of an article.


The editor reads through the piece several times to ensure that everything necessary to the coherence of the article is present. Is there a nut graf? Does the piece stick to its focus? Does it fulfill the expectations outlined in the assignment letter, and does meet our audiences’ needs?

Often there are areas that could use expansion, especially where salient details are missing. Keep in mind the old adage “show, don’t tell.” Rather than saying “this technique worked,” show what effect it had, let us know the specific benefits you received, and always favour specifics over generalizations. Not “some people say,” but “Pari Patel, author of [x], says…” or “I found that…”

Other areas may benefit from tightening, such as adverbs that could be replaced with stronger verbs, confusing mixed metaphors that should be sorted out, and repetitive points should be removed. Repetitive points ought to be removed. Repeti-… you get it.

Your editor may ask for clarification where an argument is unclear, or suggest changes where language makes heterosexist assumptions about our readers, for example.

We love practical applications, and when a technique is described, your editor may ask for examples that demonstrate its use and effect to our readers. Examples drawn from real your life experience trump anecdotes relayed fourth-hand.


Each piece will have its own structural needs, so it’s difficult to generalize on what an editor is looking for, but it has to have a logical flow. Each type of article (how-to, profile, narrative essay, news item, etc.) has its own standard considerations that writers serious about their craft may want to become familiar with.

Speaking broadly, we may suggest structural edits that would improve the flow of ideas to ensure they’re presented in a logical way (chronologically or thematically), or recommend subheads to group ideas and provide smaller, bite-sized nuggets for easy Internet digestion.


Once provided with these suggestions, the writer (that’s you!) will complete a second draft that addresses the concerns outlined.

We always write (and edit!) in service of the reader. If you disagree with my suggestions, that’s fine, but you should have a good reason for doing so, and provide solutions to the problems identified that better addresses our readers’ needs.

Most writers hit it by their second draft, which then goes through copy editing and proofreading (largely invisible to the writer), before the writer approves the final version that will appear on the site.

If you have any questions, always feel free to relate them back to your editor. We’re not here to mess with your authorial integrity, instead, we’re here to help your writing become the very best version of itself.