Most people think editing means red ink and typo-fixing.
What editors do goes beyond.
Working for a private intelligence agency, my job as senior editor was to scour the news for material that mattered most to clients. My clients knew what was happening in the world. It was up to us to tell them how what was happening was being communicated—from narrative slants to overarching consensuses, outliers to board opinions.
The material we researched, compiled, analyzed, and edited was sent out daily via email to the White House. It was the first thing President Biden read every morning before he got to work. The first thing Vice President Harris’s office saw. What First Lady Dr. Jill Biden read over coffee.
My job in that position wasn’t to look for comma splices. We had copyeditors for that. My job was to edit.
Editors think big picture. They see both the importance of each piece of writing and how the writing fits into an overarching communication strategy. Their job is to brand, assure quality, oversee, predict, and prevent. To make it make sense. To pull the whole production off.
As the Online Editor for Southeast Review, I built and designed a new website. I initiated and oversaw the weekly publication of free, online-exclusive, original works. And I'll Venmo five bucks to anyone who finds a typo in the first two years of online content we put out: 2018 and 2019.
As Editor in Chief, I did what editors do. Structural and line edits. Edited staff and freelance writers. Coordinated with section editors on short- and long-form stories. You know. The usual.
But I also moved the journal online, in addition to maintaining our biannual print edition. And I made it free. While increasing revenue.
The results of my copywriting and edits: A 94.29% increase in active daily users in the first year.
Also, I renamed the journal, worked with external designers and a logotype artist, developed a brand and operations guide, and wrote and edited copy for targeted social media campaigns, for-profit newsletters, and more.
That website design I mentioned? Their whole site is still using it.
This is the kind of work people hire editors to do. Not just line edits—though believe me, I’m passionate about that. (Making language clearer and compelling is an itch I can’t stop scratching. It might be an illness.)
People hire editors to shape and transform meaning.
Because language, narrative, and understanding are where power works.
You can’t overvalue that.