If you're wondering just what it is that an editor does, most of the time it has to do with language, language choice, clarity and style guides. When I edit, my goal is to preserve the writer's voice while enhancing the reader's experience. I submitted something recently to an online publication, and I felt the published content didn't quite hit the mark for me as a reader. No doubt it came down to available space, but I thought you might be interested to see how things can change once it leaves the writer's hands.
Here's an example of how the content I submitted was changed to fit the website's available space.
Earlier this year, before the pandemic struck, I submitted a listicle to CAA southwestern Ontario. A listicle is simply a short list of reasons why you should or shouldn't do something. In this case, my list had to do with why you should hike the Avon Trail. The assignment was 300 words long, and that's what I submitted. Five reasons to walk the trail. Here's the original content that I submitted for the listicle:
The 113km Avon Trail runs through some of the prettiest countryside southwestern Ontario has to offer. From St. Mary’s to Conestogo, it’s an easy drive to decompress in nature – a walk on this trail is better than a day at the spa.
Have feet, will travel. No expensive equipment nor athletic ability required. Just get outside and go! There are a few hills, but they’re not challenging. It is easy enough for kids, but not stroller-friendly. Walk for an hour or for six; either way, you’ll get your nature fix.
Flora, fauna, farmland and forest. Glimpse a bounding white-tailed deer, a bold raccoon, wild turkeys or songbirds – in forests, or through fields lined with crooked split rail fences, or along the banks of burbling creeks. Don’t forget to look down: the forest floor bursts with mushrooms, acorns and fuzzy caterpillars.
Take a friend. It’s a place where new friends are made, and old friendships are fastened tighter. It’s perfectly suited to conversation and reflection: the path is wide enough in parts to walk side by side, and gentle enough to talk without getting winded.
Apps and maps. If your phone’s battery is in good shape, navigate using the Ondago app. Otherwise, try the old-fashioned way. Purchase the trail guidebook in bookstores across southwestern Ontario, or join the Avon Trail Hiking Association and purchase on its website. Proceeds are used to construct and repair footbridges, boardwalks and stiles.
Be in the moment. The trail is infused with vignettes – abandoned sugar shacks and old cars, a random signpost in a forest. These are surprising when you find them. But there are many more moments when you can breathe in the air deeply, or sit beside a stream, or be mesmerized by light penetrating a stand of pines.
The trail is maintained by members and volunteers of the trail association. Check https://avontrail.ca/for seasonal trail closures before you head out, or for more information.
As you can see from the link in the second paragraph, the final posted version doesn't closely resemble what I submitted. I like mine better, but in reality, when you're a freelance writer, often your submission gets changed or edited to fit either the available space, or a specific point the publication wants to get across. That's the way it works. You still get paid, but you may have to let go of the words you spent so much time crafting, and release them into the hopefully capable hands of an experienced editor.