In the simplest terms, the writer wants to get her words across as quickly and painlessly as possible. The editor wants to slow down that process and take care with each word used, each punctuation mark inserted, each paragraph placed. While we may vaguely nod in the direction of an editor and grudgingly concede that they can “help”, most of us would rather skip the “re-do”, particularly if the writer/editor relationship starts to resemble a game of Olympic ping-pong. Or, we may have such unwavering faith in our own ability to write (we made it through law school, didn’t we?) that we feel an editor would be surplus, an undesired cost without commensurate benefit.
As an editor, I couldn’t help but smile when I stumbled upon this article by James Mathewson , Editor in Chief for ibm.com, published at Digital Book World (link here) called How To Measure The Value Of Editors. The post was originally published at Writing for Digital (link here). Many aspects of his post tickled my fancy. I loved his examination of the Declaration of Independence, noting changes suggested by Thomas Jefferson’s venerable editing committee comprised of Ben Franklin and John Adams and the crucial switch from “subjects” to “citizens” in the drafts. The changes were uncovered using spectral technology, exposing smudged-out words and phrases. Pretty cool, if you ask me.
More importantly, I appreciated his example of how good editing can improve results – IBM conducted a study on whether editors add value to the process of web content publication and the extent of the value-add. From the post:
We took a sample of unedited pages with high traffic from across our various business units and ran them through Dave Harlan, the editing lead for the group that creates a lot of our marketing content. We then ran an A/B test, where we served the unedited versions to a random sample of users and the edited versions to the rest of the users. We then measured engagement (defined as clicks to desired links on the page) on those pages over the course of a month.
The results were astonishing.
The astonishing results to which Mathewson refers are a thirty percent improvement in click-throughs or “calls to action” on the pages treated by editors.
As an editor, I firmly believe that my services improve the overall quality of a written product. But now I have the “scientific” proof. If you want to fully leverage the value of content publication, consider running your writing past the objective eyes of an editor. You won’t be sorry with the results.
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- IBM Web Team Measures Impact of an Editor on Content (ikiw.org)
- Thomas Jefferson Changes His Mind (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)