5 Brilliant Quotes About Editing

Compared to authors, proofreaders and editors rarely make any headlines. But proofreading and editing is essential to great writing! And we’ve found a few quotes we think capture this.

1. Russell Lynes – Editing Is Necessary

The editor and publisher Russell Lynes is quoted as saying:

No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.

Here, Lynes is referring to the crucial role of editing in the publication process. As an editor, you may need to manage the expectations of clients, especially those who are precious about their writing. All authors need to confront editing eventually if they want to get published!

2. M. H. Abrams – A First Draft Is Changeable

American literary critic M. H. Abrams once said:

I think the hardest thing to teach a student is that what he or she puts down on paper is changeable. It’s not the final thing, it’s the first thing, which may just be the suggestive, vague identification of something that you have to come back to and rewrite.

This is something else you may have to help your clients with. Not everyone is keen to rewrite after a first draft, but the editing process is what makes good writing great.

3. Henry Brook Adams – Omit!

The historian Henry Adams wrote many books, so he was intimately familiar with the editing process. On this note, he advised a budding writer as follows:

My criticisms are always simple… Omit! Every syllable that can be struck out is pure profit, and every page that can be economised is a five-per-cent dividend… every book written without a superfluous page or word is a masterpiece.

It’s always nice to find an author who appreciates succinct writing. And, as an editor, it may be part of your role to help your clients achieve such concision!

4. Arthur Plotnik Let the Fire Show Through the Smoke

The author of The Elements of Editing, Arthur Plotnik knows a few things about editing. Even better, though, is the poetic way he describes the editing process:

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.

This is a key insight on editing and proofreading! From literature to commercial copy, your role is always to help the client express themselves in a way their audience will understand.

5. Blake Morrison – A Bloody Trade

Let us leave the final word to poet and author Blake Morrison:

What’s wrong with a book can be something the author has repressed all knowledge of, something glaringly obvious which, the moment an editor or other reader identifies it, you think yes, of course, Eureka, and then you go back and fix it. Editing might be a bloody trade. But knives aren’t the exclusive property of butchers. Surgeons use them too.

The key to good editing, then, is being surgical with the changes you make. Don’t try to change the author’s voice or impose your own ideas on the text. But do look at how specific changes, big or small, could help the author express themselves more effectively.

Becoming a Proofreader 

If these quotes have piqued your interest in proofreading and editing, why not give Knowadays a try? Our courses teach you everything you need to know to work as a freelance proofreader. And thanks to our partnership with Proofed, we even offer guaranteed work for anyone who passes the course with a score of 80% or more.

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