How do you defend the integrity of your work while maintaining a cooperative and friendly rapport? Specifically, how can one work with an editor who is perhaps a bit overzealous?

  • can you clarify what "overzealous" means? example? Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 0:13
  • I'd rather not be too specific. But things like relentlessly rewriting any sentence that uses passive voice, even if changing it to active voice makes the sentence harder to parse and/or obscures the information the sentence conveys. Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 1:17
  • Possibly a duplicate of When editing for a person, how much can be changed?
    – Dori
    Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 3:38
  • 1
    @Dori - Interesting. Perhaps Kelly's editor needs to read that question; it's from the opposite side of what she's asking, and complements this one. Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 4:03
  • @Neil - True, the question title sounds that way, but the question itself is by an author asking about over-zealous editing of non-fiction. Sounded kinda familiar to me…
    – Dori
    Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 4:45

2 Answers 2


While it's difficult to say without seeing the writing in question (and the editor's comments), I've tried to answer this in a general sense, assuming the editor in question is reasonable and can be approached. If you're faced with, say, a proofreader who's doing rogue line editing, you have a major disconnect and this needs to be corrected.

I would suggest communicating with an overzealous editor early and often. Make it clear that you understand what an editor can provide (if you do), and ask for clarification on what the this editor considers to be within their scope; ask why they're making changes, so you'll understand for next time. (I assume there may be a next time.) Keep in mind that they're trying to make your writing better, and you may need to spend some time understanding what "better" means to them.

From your comment on relentlessly rewriting passive voice, I'm guessing you may have a newbie editor on your hands. Passive voice is sometimes the simplest way to communicate something, and suffering through a few rounds explaining that may, in the end, end up making a better editor out of this person. (I learned that lesson at the beginning of my short freelance career. I butchered a few chapters and then had to redo my work, hat in hand.)

Have you considered the possibility that this editor is at least partially correct? Maybe they're following an internal style guide that you don't know about? Perhaps they've been told they're doctoring the book?

In summary, if you're stuck with this editor, build a relationship where you can and learn from each other. If time is limited, revert the changes, explain why you're doing it, and communicate later.

  • 1
    To clarify, it's not a book but a series of articles. And yes, there is a style guide involved. I own a copy and write to it carefully so as to minimize the amount of editing that will be necessary. (This helps some.) And yes, I suspect I have a newbie editor. The person who edited these works before she took over edited me very lightly. Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 12:41

As I answered over at When editing for a person, how much can be changed?

About all I can suggest is that you learn to love (and use) the word stet.

  • I'm a little bit puzzled. Why do you repeat your answer instead of closing the question? Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 21:22
  • @John - Good question! It's important to to me to try to get consensus first. After @Neil disagreed about it being a dupe, I left it open. And when you note that both my answer and my comment about the dupe got zero upvotes, and that his disagreement got one and his answer got four + acceptance, it was clear to me I was in the minority.
    – Dori
    Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 22:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.