4 Ways Editing Others Work Can Make You A Better Writer

Eric S Burdon

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An editor is a fantastic writer if they use the tools they learn in writing.

As a writer, it’s somewhat expected for one to be editing their own work. You look at your lines, make sure everything flows together, everything is spelled properly, and that you’re conveying the right kind of message.

To this day, my editing skills aren’t used much. I have a handful of rules that I stick to when I get to writing and I ensure the document looks alright before publishing.

And that is probably the case for most other writers.

But all of that tends to change when a fellow writer or someone else asks you to look over their work.

Over the years, I think back to how my writing style developed and shifted. It’s gone through plenty of iterations as I read articles and ask myself questions.

But it all started with a friend who was asking me for editing work.

It was around the time I was doing some editing work for an acquaintance in the Czech Republic where English wasn’t his first language.

This editing work though was with a Canadian writer who had a grasp of the language and is an intelligent man. I still keep in close contact with him to this day.

My editing work helped him to become a better writer but it also in a sense made me a better writer in the process as well. As such, I wouldn’t pass up these kinds of opportunities because you can see these particular areas growing from editing someone’s written work.

It Gets You To Ask Questions

One thing I remember early on that Tom Kuegler mentioned about growing on Medium is to be reading other people’s work and asking questions.

Why did this headline capture your attention and make you want to click it?

Did the picture do anything to pull you in?

Did the writer deliver what they promised in the title?

The list of questions goes on and on. However these kinds of questions can also slip into your editing work as well.

When you’re editing someone’s work — even if it’s not a topic that excites you or interests you — you want to be thinking about how this person makes the topic interesting or exciting. As an editor, you’re also a reader and will be looking beyond spelling, grammar, and flow.

If the writer can convince you to keep reading, chances are other people will be reading too. If there is something that breaks it up or doesn’t fit right then you’ll put that as feedback and ask for them to make changes.

This also reinforces your own writing.

These are the rules that I’ve learned and established for myself when I write. I’ll mix up the formula here and there, but the initial rules I form become part of my writing moving forward.

These sorts of things you don’t initially pick up with your own writing. Speaking from experience I feel the first two years of my writing was awful but at the time was good writing. It only shifted once I started to edit and read other people’s work to realize my earlier pieces were awful.

You Pick Up New Styles

Everyone in the writing industry steals in some way shape or form.

Most writers steal writing ideas — after all, me writing about editing someone’s work isn’t anything new.

But writers also steal other people’s styles.

Similar to our own ethnicity — where our genes have intermingled with dozens of different cultures over the years due to our ancestors — writing is in a similar fashion.

We read a book or an article and we say to ourselves “I like that person’s style” and use it as our own. As time goes on, we morph that style into our own as copying the exact way of a person’s style feels off to us or we might not agree with it.

The thing is, we do this with a combination of writers rather than a single individual. We pick and choose and then mash it into our own style.

Editing someone’s work gives us that same exposure. If the work we are editing is something that ropes us in, we ask questions and then find aspects that we like and strategies that pull us in.

Maybe that person uses a lot of white space.

Or maybe they write long and sprawling paragraphs but format them to urge people to read more.

Those little quirks we pick up and try ourselves.

It Gives You Adaptability

Editing demands that you look at your writing from the perspective of a reader. It requires you to shift your mindset and look at a piece in a different light.

Being an editor is a reminder that a writer does need to adapt and change. Whether that’s writing for different topics or for different companies that require different language or style. And there is also shifting your mindset from a writer to an editor/reader.

Being able to change your views in that respect is crucial and being someone’s editor is a good way to ease into this.

You Learn New Things

A writer also has to be a constant learner. If we are to produce more content, the content stems from two sources:

  • Either the things we already know.
  • Or the things we don’t know and are willing to learn.

Editing someone’s work provides us the opportunity for the latter as we might now know much on the topic we’re editing. This allows us to learn new things about the topic and do our own research to ensure what they’re talking about is accurate.

And even if the written work is on something we already know, we can still learn something. Even though writers steal, what is truly unique is how a writer presents familiar topics.

Each article is technically unique because no one person explains things in precisely the exact same way. People can agree with opinions, but there will be subtle differences in how things are explained.

You could learn new perspectives from people about a topic that you’re familiar with and could pick that up and use it yourself.

Learning keeps us growing and editing provides a gateway for that.

Editing is an experience and an opportunity to get into another writer's mind. This is a more profound experience than simply reading someone’s work after they’ve published. You get to understand someone on a deeper level.

And even if you don’t make that many changes to their work, you still walk away with plenty of experience. Experience that you can then turn to make your own writing better. All you have to do is leverage the experience.

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