The value of editing
When you take a look at the many volunteer-run sites on the Web, one thing that you might not expect to find is just how high a standard of writing there is out there. There are plenty of writers whose work is almost indistinguishable from a professional journalist’s, yet they only do it as a hobby. But where did these people come from and how can you build a team of them?
Even at the most successful volunteer-run sites, the standard of writing shown by applicants is fairly low. It’s extremely rare that an accomplished writer just shows up and can slot right in to your team. Great writers are not found, they’re made.
The key to developing any skill is usually a combination of practice and feedback. Yet while persistently doing the former will make you improve gradually, it will only take you so far. Without feedback, it’s difficult to understand what you’re doing right and where you need to focus your efforts on.
Editing your fellow writers’ work is essential for their development and allows you to maintain a consistent standard of work across your site. This is beneficial for everyone, both in terms of personal development and the output of the site as a whole.
How to give constructive feedback
What’s the best way to go about editing someone’s work? Techniques vary between sites, but typically a common form of notation is used by an editor to point out errors and suggest changes. This might be done by adding comments in bold or using colour to denote alterations. Here’s how we do it at Thunderbolt:
However they’re presented, suggestions are always more useful within the body of the original text. If parts of the article are quoted, with comments underneath, it’s difficult to keep track of where in the original piece is being referred to.
It’s also important not to simply edit a writer’s article and send it back to them. If changes aren’t easy to see or have already been made, then no further work is required on the author’s part. This sounds like a good thing, but it’s actually detrimental to their development. When you’re teaching people, you shouldn’t give them all the answers. By having to work through suggestions and correct them, writers can better learn what they’re doing wrong and see how to improve.
The amount and method of editing varies from site to site, but wherever articles are published, doing so is beneficial for everyone. Helping writers develop their skills contributes to their personal development and the quality of your publication as a whole.