>I’ve been edited!

>You write the best article you can. You polish it until every word shines. You check every name, number and link. Confident this will be your best clip ever, you send it in. Then, when the paper comes out, you barely recognize your own story. You’ve been edited.

Everyone can use some editing. We should be grateful for the editors, copyeditors and proofreaders who save us from misspelled words, typos and incorrect assumptions that we just didn’t see. Sometimes an impartial reader can see how cutting and rearranging paragraphs can make a story much better.

However, editors have different styles. Some use a light touch, tweaking a word or a comma here and there, on stories that are basically fine the way they are. If they see something drastic that needs fixing, they confer with the writer before making the change.

Other editors seem driven to put their own stamp on every piece that they publish. They revise and rewrite, even when it doesn’t seem to be needed. In the worst cases, they change our facts. That happened to a friend this week, and she’s understandably upset. Sooner or later it happens to all of us. We read our published work and scream, “No! That’s wrong!”

So now what do we do? We have to talk to the editor. Calmly. Some are just crazy. But others are working as hard as we are, and they’re working at such a fast pace that they do make mistakes. If the facts have been altered so that the story is inaccurate, we need to ask that a correction be published. Yes, a paragraph in a printed newspaper on a different day won’t do much to save the original story, but it will help defuse any anger from the people you interviewed. The online version is a different situation. Changes can be inserted so that the mistake goes away. Of course, anyone who reads it before the correction is made will read the erroneous version, but at least anyone who comes to it later will get it the way it’s supposed to be.

What if the editor resists making any changes and takes no blame for the inaccuracies? Maybe it’s time to find another gig. A freelancer’s integrity is vital. But before you quit in a huff, have an honest talk with the editor–if you can. Explain that you are uncomfortable with the heavy editing and ask if the editor has a problem with your writing. Is there something you can fix? Is it just the editor’s style? Is there any way you can see the edited version before it goes to print? The answer to that is probably no because editors are moving so quickly on deadline, but you could ask.

Bottom line: editors do and should edit. Any writer who insists that nothing can be changed will soon be out of business. But when an editor regularly turns your words into Silly Putty, it may be time to take your business elsewhere.

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