The Future of Editing 1: Everyone Needs an Editor

Jim Sire, my predecessor at IVP as editorial director, loved to tell the story of a book review he had drafted. He showed it to Paul to look over before he sent it off to a journal.

Paul told him, “Here you say the book has merit but wasn’t evocative enough. What you actually write, however, is, ‘The book isn’t suggestive enough.’ That actually has a very different meaning than the one I think you intend! I doubt you mean that the book fails to contain adequate sexual innuendo.”

The maxim


IVP editor Jim Sire happily took away from someone pointing out a problem with his writing was this: Everyone needs an editor.

Even an editor as experienced and accomplished as Jim needed someone who could give a constructive outside perspective. Sometimes we know so clearly what we intend to communicate, we think it is manifestly evident to everyone else. Often it is not.

We live in an age where we think every thought that passes through our minds and every burp that passes through our lips is worthy of public consumption. We tweet and post daily, hourly, believing our profundity or humor is a gift to humanity, or at least to the friends who follow us.

Rarely do we stop to think that maybe, maybe something we write could be misunderstood. And yet we see it happen all the time–to others. Athletes, celebrities, politicians, business moguls make missteps all the time on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. The result can be a brush fire or a firestorm of reaction. Yet all of this is so very avoidable.

Everyone, you see, needs an editor.

Often before I post something I will show it to a family member, a friend, a colleague and say, “Hey, what do you think of this?” Sometimes they just think my humor is lame. But sometimes they have saved me from saying something that could have had unintended consequences.

Because everyone needs an editor, the future of editing should be bright. But the forces of individualism (“I am sufficient to figure things out all on my own”) and freedom (“I should be completely unbound to do or say whatever I want whenever I want”) have overwhelmed not only good sense but a sense of community.

Submitting ourselves to editing is an act of humility and an acknowledgment of our limitations. But it is more. It affirms that we are inextricably tied to others, to a world that is larger than ourselves.

And yes, I had someone edit this entry for Andy Unedited.

Next Installment: The Future of Editing 2: Who Editors Need to Be

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

3 thoughts on “The Future of Editing 1: Everyone Needs an Editor”

  1. Editors improve written work. Were such mechanical engineers instead, they would be lauded for making a widget more fashionable, functional, and marketable, with appropriate compensation for the improvements.

    Which is why I’m baffled by the short shrift given editors and editing today. Shrinking pay only exacerbates the issue.

    At a time when words have never been so plentiful, the editor has never been more needed–and yet so curiously viewed as superfluous. Shame on us.

  2. Thanks, Helen. The dirty little secret of Andy Unedited is that it has always been edited!

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