Can editing make one’s writing shine?


Editing has often been considered as the prescriptive solution for mediocre writing, in the same way that image editing software has been considered to be the antidote of bad digital photography.  This is regrettable because no amount of editing will be able to save a piece of writing if it’s in bad shape.

A good writing style is the prerequisite to good writing. If the quality of a piece of writing is compromised, no amount of editing will be able to save it. The most that editing can do is in making the piece of writing readable and acceptable.  If we want to make the mediocre writing shine, re-writing is the prescription, not editing. 

Some of you might wonder about the reason for two separate professions of editors and journalists in the newsroom if editing is so trivial. Please do not misunderstand.  I am not saying that editing is unimportant, but merely that editing has its limits. This limit is removed if the writer and editor is one and the same person because there is a consistency in terms of writing style. However, things get challenging when the writer and editor are two separate individuals. How does one balance one’s distinct writing style with another’s judgment on things? All of us have different realities and based on this fact, it can be observed that editing someone’s writing can bring the writers’ message across to their readers, but it may not be in the way that the author intended.

One good analogy that we can think of will be a novel-inspired movie. In recent years, many movies are being made based on novels but fans of the novels are often disappointed about the content of the novel-inspired film. Why is this so? This is because the artistic directions of the novel’s author and the film director are different. If we add in the script writer, music editor and cinematographer, it is not difficult to see why a highly lauded film based on a novel that tops the box office is a miracle.

However, an editor’s ability does not pale in comparison to that of a writer. A writer creates a story through a distinct writing style while an editor scans through a written piece of writing for discrepancies.  Both endeavours are powerful in their own rights, although writing – with its ability to create something from a clean slate- seems to be a more powerful form of art. 

Nevertheless, a single individual who practises writing and editing is omnipotent.


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