There is no role more crucial to the writing process, save for the author, than the editor. They are the intermediary step between writing and publishing and often tip the scales on whether than goal is reached. In its most basic context, editing is preparing a manuscript, article, book, or some other written piece for publication, usually involving identifying and fixing mistakes in grammar, spelling, and narrative flow. While the actual practice and nuance behind it is far more complicated, this base process can be separated into two different professions centered around the material being edited. One is more administrative than hands on while the other can be incredibly personal.
Media such as web articles and newspapers often defer directly to their editor. In this context it can be thought of as a leadership decision due to the control the editor holds over what will appear in the next publication. In many senses, the editor of a paper is in charge of that paper. Larger organizations will often get dozens of stories every week written by their own reporters and freelance. The Linux Media guide states that “newspaper editors reject many more releases than they use. The larger the paper’s circulation or the more active the area being covered, the more releases the editor has to sort through.” More often their responsibilities lie with choosing the layout and content of a paper than making sure its grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct. An editor gets the final call as to what is published in a newspaper, what gets onto the front page, whether something is thrown out or saved for a later edition, and how long each article can be. Space is particularly important as certain amounts have to be set aside for advertisements, meaning that the editor also makes sure the paper will meet its budget requirements.
Editors for more private works, books and poetry and the like, fit closer to the base definition. They are responsible for going over the grammar and form of a work as well as paying attention to the narrative flow of the piece. This is immensely important, especially for unknown or small name authors as they will not have very many roads into the industry and need to put their best foot forward. According to Annie Evett in her WordPress article, “A great editor makes the journey towards being published a pleasurable trip, a poorly chosen one will make the trip drag for eternity.” James Joyner, of Outside the Beltway, lists three major services an editor should provide the author they are assisting. To help the writer get a point across by making it clear exactly what the work is about, to make sure the piece is written in a way the common reader can easily understand and connect with, and to make sure the more technical aspects are up to par so the writer looks competent. All of this they have to balance with the writer’s own vision and to make sure their own views don’t override this.
To be as plain as possible, an editor’s role is to make a work, regardless of what format it has, presentable for publication. The reason authors approach editors with their work is to get help making it ready for publication. Though different types of writing may require different methods, it is the key idea behind the profession. Editors bridge the gap between writers and publication and they make bookshelves all the better for it.