When your work gets published, you may find that it differs considerably from what you submitted. Are you making the same mistakes over again? Most of the time, editors are too busy to offer you detailed feedback, so here are a few pet hates that you can eliminate from your writing before you’ve even filed.
And compare it with what is on the website or in the magazine. If what you’ve submitted is in a completely different format that just shows that you haven’t looked at other articles.
Over the word count?
You may think you’re being helpful giving the editor too many words – like you’re keen and doing over the amount of work required – it’s not true. By not being able to edit your own work you create much more work for an editor and it also makes you look unprofessional. If something is double the word count they’ve set that’s a huge problem for them and sadly, they are often heavy-handed editing it. You may think they’ve slashed your favourite paragraph, but if there are too many words, they probably just want to cut it down as efficiently as possible.
If there are lots of personal anecdotes and overuse of the word ‘I’, this could be one of the first things to change. You might be really interested in this old family story that your mum and dad always laugh at, but if it’s long-winded, doesn’t get to the point, and isn’t relevant to readers, it’s likely to be cut.
You might have thumbed the thesaurus and crammed your article full of intellectual phrases, but simple, concise phrases work best for a wider audience. Lots of websites have articles written to a set reading age. If your vocabulary has been changed, try using simpler words in future while keeping your personality in the piece. It’s not always bad; the challenge of doing so will make you more versatile and ultimately a better writer.
Have the opening and closing paragraphs been re-written?
Web editors now have to think about SEO (search engine optimized), which means that the article appears higher in a search engine. Words and phrases have to be added in, but if you’re a writer, you’re not really expected to know about this, though it is a plus. Look carefully at your standfirst compared to theirs: are there any words added in? Are all the standfirsts on the website written to the same style? Look at what makes a stronger standfirst, as it will really help you when pitching ideas to editors too.
It’s worth keeping all of this in mind for next time. If you’re still at a loss as to why your article’s been changed, send a polite email to the editor to ask for a rundown of the changes, and ask for any advice.
Katie Gatens is Entertainment Assistant at British Airways High Life magazine.