How I Edit Different Writing Styles


One question people often have about editing is how I deal with different writing styles.

An author’s writing style can also be referred to as the author’s “voice.” If you read enough books by the same author, you might start to recognize a general flow of the writing. That is the author’s voice coming through. It’s their personal writing style, use of words, and phrasing that makes each author unique.

As an editor, it’s extremely important that I maintain the author’s original voice and tone. I never want an author to feel like their book is not their own.

That said, while I’m editing I usually have a lot of suggestions for rephrasing. Sometimes it’s an individual sentence that needs to be rewritten because it’s incomplete or incorrect. Sometimes it’s an entire introduction or scene that’s missing a vital component or just doesn’t sound quite right.

In my experience working with hundreds of authors on both fiction and nonfiction books and articles, I’ve found that it’s much easier to show what I am suggesting rather than to try to explain it.

So, what I normally do is summarize my suggestion and then say something like this: “Here’s an example of how you could rephrase. Feel free to rework this using your own author voice.” [Then I provide a rewrite in my own words]

By doing this, I can rewrite the part I feel needs to be rewritten BUT I give the author the option to rewrite my words into something that sounds like he or she wrote it in the first place. Usually what ends up happening is the author will use my basic example but maybe switch a few words around or revise just slightly. Or, they take the basic idea of the rewrite and write a new scene/section on their own. My point gets across and the revision is made, but the author doesn’t feel as though I’ve completely taken over and changed their book.

Only in rare cases was the author not able to understand what I was suggesting by looking at a rewritten example, and I’ve never had an author complain that I was trying to take over their book with my own writing.

Question: As an author, have you had an editor use this kind of tactic when suggesting an edit? As an editor, what is your preferred method for showing authors the edit you are suggesting?


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