In a new, occasional series, I share questions of MatadorU students and Cuaderno Inedito readers, as well as my answers.
“How common is it for good writers to revise? I am amazed at how many errors I don’t notice – is this common?”
By the time you send in an article to an editor or publisher, it should be free of spelling and mechanical errors. It’s a good idea to let the piece rest for 24 hours once you’ve finished it. Read it again; you’ll find mistakes. Read it out loud; you’ll hear mistakes. Then, give it to someone you trust for a third read. They’ll find more errors. Clean these up; send it in.
Even then, though, 99.9% of the time, you’ll end up doing more revisions. These revisions, though, shouldn’t be spelling/grammar/mechanical; they should be structural, conceptual, and stylistic. An editor’s job isn’t to correct sloppy mechanical errors of the writer; it’s to work with the writer to craft the article into the strongest version of itself. It’s also the editor’s job to work with the writer so that the writer’s voice and style are retained while the essential voice and style of the publication are also achieved. This can be tough for newer writers, especially, as they are very protective of their work and don’t understand why editors eliminate words and sentences that the writers view as vital to the piece, or why editors change words entirely. Ultimately, every article that goes into a publication is both a stand-alone piece of work and part of the larger whole, so there has to be consistency and congruence across the whole publication.