Does Everyone Knead an Editor?


Here’s another guest post from one of our speakers, Spud Hilton, who’ll be co-presenting at an ed session titled:  10 Step to Writing that Better Engages (and Keeps) Your Readers.

It’s part of the romance and attraction of blogging – being able to say what you want, when you want, how you want, without the pesky interference of others. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times:

“I don’t need an editor,” the line usually goes. “The readers are my editor.”

It’s an interesting perspective that gives insight into media and platforms that are so rich with the refreshing and unfettered voices of self-publishing.

It’s also a steaming load of crap.

Everyone needs an editor. Steinbeck needed an editor. Bill Bryson needs an editor. Francis Mayes needed, well, a story with a point (an editor should have told her that), and maybe if David Foster Wallace had had a better editor, he wouldn’t have been allowed to fabricate so much in his “nonfiction” stories.

There’s a gaping canyon of difference between feedback and editing, instructing, mentoring. Readers can stand on the sidelines and say what they like or don’t like, but they can’t tell you how to get better at what you do. And since (based on the TBEX slogan) we’ve identified ourselves as travel writers, it stands to reason we would want to get better at it. I pity the person who doesn’t want to continually improve at what they do. (Just so we’re clear, we’re not talking about grammar and punctuation. A good editor helps identify the strengths and weaknesses – in writing style, in logic, in voice, in structure, in clichés. A good editor tells you things you don’t want to hear, but that you should hear – which is why spouses, mothers, lifelong friends and anyone who owes you money make horrible editors.)

This is all a roundabout way of encouraging TBEX attendees to use this gathering as an opportunity to find a casual editor, someone you trust to look over your important posts and give honest criticism and advice – even when you don’t want to hear it. Seek out a fellow blogger whose work you admire and ask if they would be willing to look over the occasional post, or maybe be willing to swap critiques. (Keep in mind, many people are already too busy, or they edit for a living and can’t give it away, but with this many attendees you should be able to find someone who would appreciate trading editing.)

Yes, readers can be your editor. You just have to pick the right reader for the job.

For anyone who’s read this far: This post also serves as an invitation to a limited number of TBEX attendees to bring writing samples – posts, stories, articles (sorry, no poetry) – that I can look over and on which I can offer advice, criticism or praise. I’m offering this for the first 15 or so attendees who e-mail me at with the word EDITOR in the subject line. Either include your writing in the e-mail, or bring your sample with you to TBEX.

Spud Hilton is the travel editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and writes the Bad Latitude travel blog at He has been edited for 24 years.

Photo credit:  Courtesy of Spud Hilton

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Nancy D. Brown
Nancy D. Brown
June 10, 2012 7:47 pm

Don’t forget to set the scene in your blog post and be sure to use the word “nestled” in your writing. Spud LOVES the word “nestled.”

I’m sorry to be missing TBEX this year. Spud offers a valuable invitation to TBEX attendees, offering his advice criticism or praise on your writing samples.

Have a great conference!

Lenore Greiner
Lenore Greiner
June 11, 2012 12:54 am

Oh, God, this is my great bugaboo in the blogging world. Coming from journalism, I’m used to getting shredded by copy editors. Now it’s so scary to see how the blogging world just releases stuff onto the Internet without a once over by another pair of eyes with strong English grammar skills. Is this where we’re headed, a loss of standards? Steaming load of crap indeed!

Trisha Miller
Trisha Miller
June 11, 2012 5:31 pm

Bravo! I’m in complete agreement – I see far too much unedited writing out there, much of it that could benefit from a few simple changes, turning something mediocre at best into a well-told story. Even the very best writers understand the value in a good editor. I sincerely hope any blogger who reads this will see the good sense in your suggestion of an editing buddy – any help, even of the non-professional variety, is better than none.

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