When Editing Ruins Your Freelance Article

by Anne Wayman

editingWhen you submit an article to a magazine or a blog or other publication, you are also implicitly agreeing to any editing they might do. Usually this works out well. Good editors want to make their writers look good. Good editing adds a final polish to your piece.

Once in a while, however, the editing will ruin your writing. Unless you’re famous you probably won’t even know it’s happened until the piece is published.

By and large there’s not a whole lot you can do about it poor editing, particularly if it’s already published.

OK, but what can you do?

Oh sure, if they added or subtracted something that caused an error in fact under your name it makes sense to ask them to publish a correction. Do so in writing, email is fine, just in case the error they introduced is egregious enough to generate a lawsuit.


 
If you’re shown a proof of the article, feel free to ask for corrections editing has introduced. The publisher or editor may or may not agree.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about editing that makes your article un-factual or just poorly written, not changes that are made so the piece fits the publication’s style sheets. This can include adding or subtracting even paragraphs. It also includes the advertising that may be displayed in the middle of your article.

Ask your name be taken off it

If you discover the error in the proofing stage and they won’t correct the problem, you can ask that your name be taken off it.

I did that once over a booklet on meditation I’d written. The editor wanted me to make a change that I felt led the reader in a mistaken direction. I explained my position, and she still insisted. I asked her to let me think about it overnight which she agreed to do.

The next morning I was more convinced than ever that I wanted nothing to do with her approach. I called and told her that if she wanted that paragraph in the booklet, I’d appreciate if she took my name off it. Much to my surprise, that stopped her. The booklet was published without her changes.  As I think back, I’m still convinced her approach was actually misleading.

It’s (probably) not worth a huge fuss

In general it’s probably not worth a huge fuss. The truth is blog posts, magazine articles, and even most books have a relatively short life span, even in this day of Google.

For example, the article I wrote back in the early days of computers asking if it was ethical to mail merge your love letters was meant to be comic – I suspect I’m the only one who remembers how the article was butchered (I’m sure they called it editing). I’ve never included it on my credits list and no one has ever mentioned it to me; the magazine in question folded long, long ago.

Most writers who’ve been in the game for any length of time have had this kind of experience once in a while. My advice is generally just to let it go.

Have you had bad editing? Tell us about it in comments.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer




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