Nobody would ever describe the writing life as easy, but can we take a moment to appreciate editors? Behind those assignment letters (PSA: always demand one) and email addresses are real people — real people that you are probably, and with complete unawareness, driving crazy. Here’s how to stop it.
Being interrupted constantly is no less fun when the offending emailer/caller/texter (hey, we don’t know how close you are with your editors) is a freelancer.
The word “editor” is woefully vague these days, spanning project management, copy editing, content strategy, and probably some crying in the bathroom. Point is, this person is busy. Unless they really did miss an essential detail at assignment, it’s best not to bother them with questions that you can probably figure out on your own.
Or… the opposite
Depending on which line of editorial work you are in, things can change dramatically. It’s especially true for branded content, where the client is king — and sometimes of the Joffrey variety. Brand guidelines, highlighted products, and even entire concepts often go out the window, so it’s best to keep an eye on that inbox and be ready to “hop on a call” (bleurch) if any new direction remains unclear.
Back in non-branded world, anything from an editorial reshuffle to a news event that has a major impact on tone could prompt a check in, so stay vigilant. And in any case, responding quickly lets your editor know that all is on track, and that they should expect no delays.
Changing the concept
Of course writing is an art, not a science, but beware of making changes in direction that were not stipulated by your editor — or to which they did not agree in writing. They gave you this though-starter for a reason, so if you think you have a better idea, be sure to run it by them first. Alternatively, stash this inspo away for yourself and write the article you’d rather write on your own time.
Not knowing the audience
Your editor didn’t just hire you for your writing style, but also for your ability to adapt it to their audience. This is a given. So nothing burns them more than a writer who made zero attempt to familiarize themselves with the publication or site. If you don’t see curse words, political opinions, or the Oxford comma anywhere else? No, you shouldn’t blaze a trail.
Going over the word count
This one is tricky, because what could reasonably pass for generosity in other industries (a free side of fries!) is actually creating work for someone else. Meeting word counts with absolute precision is tough, but worth aiming for. When you go way over, you appear too lazy to self-edit, which is arguably as great a crime as coming in short.
Ignoring any of the “lines”
Deadlines, guidelines, bylines… whatever you and your editor agreed to upfront on the timeline, scope of work, and credits, stick to it or risk appearing highly unprofessional.
The number one way to annoy an editor, or brand yourself unhireable, is to mess with their deadlines — and that means sticking to yours. Life throws curveballs, of course, but if there is any possible way that you can avoid sending that email? Do it. Remember, all editors ever want in life is clean copy that they barely have to change, in their inbox, on time. Oh and a little respect (see all of the above).