C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

How to talk to an Editor (pleasantly)

Rule #1: Most important in this or any business: Be the pleasant solution, not the grumpy problem.


You write a piece for a magazine. They edit it (gently I hope) and before they send it off to the printer, they send you a dummy in the form of a pdf file. Depending on the mag, they may also require a fact check and copies of all your notes etc.,…

Though the editor has gone over the story and it looks like the magazine page, go over it carefully. Ultimately, my name’s on the piece, so I have to be happy with it. However, this is not the time for you to make major changes. It was supposed to be close to perfect when you sent it in. There will be a few notes here and there, sometimes so many you’d think the copy editor went at their keyboard with oven mitts. Usually it’ll be details.

Correct the mistakes. How you talk to the editor is based on what relationship you’ve built up over time. I have an editor I’ve worked with for a few years now and, like many jobs I’ve had, I sometimes suspect I don’t get fired because I amuse them. Be yourself, only better. Don’t assume familiarity too quickly, but build the relationship so you get assignments. Do a great job so you earn the next job, too, of course.

I just got a pdf tonight for a health mag I write for. One of my precious/funny  anecdotes had been deleted from the story. I don’t decry the loss because that’s an editorial choice I can live with. The length often gets cut not because of the content but because magazine and newspaper content is just the stuff they’re trying to fit between the ads. (In newspapers, they crassly call it “The News Hole” which also gives you an insight into the perceived value of reporters’ hard work.)

Below is a copy of what I’d consider typical of a reply to an editor (I know really well) with a few things I want changed in the pdf. Sometimes it’s a lot more but this editor edits clean so my suggestions are minor.

See? Freelancing can be fun.


My Queen,

Looks good. Just a couple of quibbles:

1. If you have the space, MSG is another migraine trigger that would be good to mention. Alert the populace!

2. Under For the joy of it, the phrase “hanging around” is used too close together. How about: “As long as we’ve been on the planet…”

3. The paragraph starting “Poke an animal with a stick” appears to have a double indent making it non-uniform and so it is deviant and must be crushed…sorry, my upbringing in a Catholic girl’s school is showing.

Okay, that’s three quibbles, but that’ll do. Any other objection I have is microscopic and really revolves around my sublimated resentments about not yet winning the lottery, not controlling my world and…I’ve said too much…back to writing about the existential horror of it all. Did I mention that we’re all just genetically programmed meat machines awaiting the heat death of the universe? Probably. I put it on outgoing my voice mail message, too.*


The Impossible


*I know this editor well and joking around a lot opened the door to writing a couple of humor pieces for the mag, as well. Early on? Much more formal, short, to the point and business-like…because, hey man, whether you like it or not, this is a business.

Filed under: Editors, writing tips, ,

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