What makes a good editor?

  • Good IT skills with common word-based programs (most editing is done onscreen these days)
  • Excellent command of your own language
  • Good general knowledge and knowledge of some foreign languages, which enhances ability to spot errors
  • Ability to understand concepts and ‘translate’ them into plain language
  • Logical thinking
  • Good memory
  • Doggedness, being hard to bore, ability to stick to the task until it is finished
  • Willingness to take on challenging and complex projects
  • Reliability, punctuality
  • Clarity, legibility

• Professionalism – making necessary but not capricious changes, not showing off, not belittling an author
• Good at estimating time and effort, and ability to negotiate reasonable terms
• Pleasant personality, polite but firm, easy to do business with

… and, above all,

• Judgement, judgement, judgement!

I edited Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel. Sounds simple enough. Except that I was asked at the same time to “cut it in half”.

When I received it, it was 400,000 words long. When I finished with it, it was about 225,000 words long.

The trick – the judgement – was how to cut: huge chunks? little bits all the way through? or some of both?

What would you have done?