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Editing the Way We Edit

My first encounter with an editor was as bad as they get.

The West Morris Central High School Bimonthly Herald, despite taking the prize for the most ridiculous name in journalistic history, was nothing short of a very bad newspaper. When I first joined the staff as a columnist during my sophomore year in high school, the publication was unknown to the vast majority of the student body, and operated on a 75-dollar yearly budget. Even so, I was enthralled with the prospect of seeing my name published. In September of 2008, I completed and submitted my very first column – a critical investigation of administrative payrolls entitled “Corruption in the Main Office”. Five days later, when the printed edition was released, my original story was nowhere to be found. Instead, framed just above my name on the center of page three, was the headline “Students Approve of Paychecks”.

In a potent daze of confusion and anger, I approached the editor-in-chief, a senior AP student who had founded the organization in 2005.

“This is definitely not my article”, I proclaimed, gesturing furiously at the open newspaper on her desk. “Why did you change it so much?”

Rising slowly from her seat, she cleared her throat menacingly. “How dare you barge in here and lecture me,” she snarled. “I guess you think that you should be editor!”

Someone apparently did, because two months later I had her job.

Having graduated from The West Morris Central High School Bimonthly Herald to The GW Hatchet, I once again find myself in the position of a lowly columnist. This time around, however, my editors are exactly what editors should be. They work with me directly when making revisions, and are the first to consider my own suggestions. Accordingly, the printed product is always superior to my initial submission.

In reality, revision embodies one of the most important steps of the writing process. While many students liken the role of an editor to that of a censor, nothing could be further from the truth. In an episode of his weekly video blog series, author John Green argues that editing can inspire a writer’s best work.

So, exactly where can one go about finding an editor? Well… just about anywhere.

When attempting to improve your UW essay, take advantage of the countless resources at your disposal. Hand it to your roommate. Talk it over with a professor. Heck, feel free to enlist your parents during Colonials Weekend. The possibilities are endless. When all is said and done, you may be surprised to learn that your best idea comes from the most unlikely of editors.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm


    Thanks for plugging the Hatchet! I, too, am a new reporter, and have found my editor’s guidance to be particularly useful and beneficial to my own strength as a writer. I also have tremendous faith in our school newspaper–the second oldest rag in the district, by the way–as a venue for good, relevant, and important pieces of writing.

    To relate it to the class a little bit more, I think that they types of revisions that we are doing with our essays in UW1020: Science and Media is very similar to the type of work that is done in the Hatchet townhouse. In both cases, writing is submitted and revised (to differing degrees, depending on the quality of the writing and other various factors,) so that the final product is as perfect as it can be. There is an emphasis on the collaborative nature of writing, and how multiple sets of eyes looking at the same piece of work will yield a better result as opposed to just one set. Life is collaborative; we aren’t in this alone. So, naturally, neither should our writing.

    When it comes to getting help and advice outside of oneself, I personally have found the library’s resources to be particularly beneficial. The librarians are eager to help students achieve their goals, whether it be help literally writing, or something else, like finding the right sources or learning how to use Gelman’s online database. Having resources are important. We are lucky that here at GW, we have many options available to us. It would simply be careless and irresponsible if we didn’t take advantage of the staff that wants to help us grow as students and writers.

  2. October 13, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    I also have discovered this experience with editing, my first encounter being with my high school’s paper: The Rogue News. I wrote for that paper for two years, starting as a reporter and making my way up to being a columnist and editor and, like both of you, I am now proudly a writer for the Hatchet!

    I agree that the editing process can often be disheartening, but it is also the most vital process in writing. I was able to learn to not only accept revisions but beg for and welcome them because I realize how helpful they can be! I attended one of the Writing Symposium workshops yesterday and one of the panel members touched on this topic when she said that she had to completely re-write her final research paper after her teacher edited it. This may sound like the worst thing ever, but she ended up having a better paper than she could have had before it was edited. I have also experienced this in my writing background, and I thank you for posting this!

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