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EDITING ERRORS AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

Previously, Lori told you how frustrated she was when she read the published version of her piece on Santa Fe’s chiles to find that, throughout, “chile” was spelled “chili” and the editor had also (inaccurately) tacked “pepper” onto at least one reference.  Those kinds of mistakes do occur. Editors are, after all, human.

But in their defense, I do want to point out that most of the time an editor’s changes improve a writer’s text. Still, nobody likes to have their words “messed with.”

And so today, I’m going to give you three tips to a.) increase the chances your article will be printed in exactly the way you submit it and b.) ensure that editors will be less likely to introduce errors when they do edit.

** TIP #1 — Tell your editor about quirks of spelling and any other fussy things she might be inclined to change.

Lori could have easily avoided the situation she found herself in with that “chile” article if she’d simply said to the editor when she submitted her piece, “Quick note: You’ll find the word ‘chile’ throughout — spelled that way, with an ‘e,’ on purpose. These aren’t “chilis” and they aren’t actually peppers, either. Just wanted to give you a heads up since your spell-check will probably prompt you to change it.”

** TIP #2 — Offer to proof the final piece.

At some publications, it’s standard practice to send the writer a PDF proof of an article before it actually prints. That’s great. It gives you a preview of the layout. And it also gives you an opportunity to make sure no errors have been introduced in editing.  But that’s not always publication policy. So, when you submit your article, you can always say something like, “I’d be happy to give the final proof a once-over if you’d like, just so you have an extra set of eyes on it before you print.”  That way, if it’s a step the editor already takes, she can say to you, “Absolutely, I always send a proof to my writers.”  And if it’s not something she typically does, then you’ve offered to help her (instead of demanding to see a proof and thus appearing to distrust her). She’ll probably respond with something like, “Thanks for the offer to proof. We’re on a tight deadline here, but I’d love to have you read it for me.” Either way, you’re likely to see it before it prints.

** TIP #3 — Submit the number of words your editor asked for.

One easy way to encourage mistakes in your articles is to write too much. If an editor (or the writer’s guidelines if you’re working on spec) asked you for 300 words and you delivered 350, she’s going to have to cut to fit your piece into the layout.  Most likely, that will mean a rephrase here, a sentence cut there. And that’s when errors can occur.

Say your editor eliminates your first reference to Ron Smith, owner of the Lovely Hotel. She leaves the second reference in. But she neglects to move his title down. Now readers don’t know who he is. That sort of thing is unintentional on the editor’s part. She doesn’t want those errors any more than you do. But — and I know from experience — when you’re moving fast, those things sometimes happen.
They happen a lot less frequently when the editor doesn’t have to cut a thing.

** BONUS TIP — The closer to perfect your piece is when you submit it, the more likely it is that it will go to print with no changes. And the more likely, it is, too, that your editor will come back to you for more. 

I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing more wonderful for an editor than to open a file and think, “Wow, this is great as-is. I don’t have to do a thing. I can send this to the designer right now… ”  I’ve had that experience on occasion when sitting with my editor’s cap on. And each time, I’ve immediately sent the writer a note saying, “Love your piece. Thank you. Would you be interested in writing more?”

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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