Being a top-notch editor isn’t just about red pens and grammar rules. It’s about emotional intelligence, understanding our authors and making the editing journey a valuable experience for everyone involved. In the dynamic world of publishing and editing, effective communication and collaboration between editors and authors are essential for producing high-quality content. Effective communication and collaboration rely on emotional intelligence in the editorial process. Emotional intelligence for editors involves self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and effective communication.

Emotional intelligence for editors

Before engaging with authors and writers, editors should reflect on their own emotions and potential biases. Awareness of personal triggers or stressors enables editors to approach editorial discussions with clarity and professionalism. Mindful responses and a composed demeanour contribute to a more positive collaboration with writers. Editors need to regulate their emotions during the editing process, especially when providing constructive criticism. Even private frustration, while not overtly expressed, may make itself felt in negotiations with an author.

Understanding authors’ perspectives and acknowledging their emotional investment in their work is critical. Editors need to empathise with the challenges writers face, creating a supportive and constructive editing environment.

Active listening is paramount in the editor-writer relationship. By allowing authors to express their concerns and ideas, editors demonstrate empathy and foster open communication. Clear and respectful communication, both verbal and non-verbal, contributes to a positive editing experience.

Collaboration is key to managing challenges

Challenges in the editing process are inevitable, but editors can view them as opportunities for growth and improvement in the author-editor relationship. Editors should collaborate with authors to identify solutions to editorial challenges. A collaborative approach, focusing on mutual goals, strengthens the working relationship and ensures a more satisfying editing experience.

Each editing project provides a chance for editors to learn and adapt. Reflecting on experiences, identifying areas for improvement and incorporating lessons into future collaborations contribute to ongoing growth and enhanced editorial skills.

The impact of poor emotional intelligence on the editor-author relationship

For editors with poor emotional intelligence, subtle undertones may affect the author-editor relationship, leading to potential challenges. A lack of empathy on the part of an editor may lead them to struggle to understand the emotional investment authors have in their work, potentially causing feelings of frustration or undervaluation. Poor communication from an editor may lead to misunderstandings or frustration on the part of the writer, hindering the collaboration. An editor’s inability to approach challenges constructively or resistance to adapting to the author’s writing style or vision may lead to a perception of incompetence, diminishing the writer’s confidence in the editing process.

Some practical problems and how to solve them: Communication is key

Editors often encounter various practical problems when working with authors. These challenges can range from communication issues to disagreements on content. The table below sets out a few problems that may be encountered by editors, examples of these and some suggested solutions.




Authors and editors may experience difficulties in communication, leading to misunderstandings, missed deadlines or a lack of clarity on project expectations. An editor provides feedback on a manuscript, but the author misunderstands the suggested changes, resulting in a mismatch between the author’s vision and the editor’s revisions. · Establish clear communication channels from the beginning.

· Schedule regular check-ins, use written communication to document discussions, and consider video or phone calls for more personal conversations.

· Confirm mutual understanding by summarising key points and expectations after discussions. This helps to build the relationship and fosters goodwill.

Some authors may be resistant to editorial suggestions or feedback, hindering the collaborative editing process. An author rejects multiple edits without providing constructive feedback, making it challenging for the editor to understand the author’s concerns and work towards a mutually satisfactory solution. · Foster a positive and constructive feedback culture.

· Clearly communicate the intention behind suggested changes, emphasising improvement rather than criticism.

· Encourage authors to share their perspective and concerns.

· Provide specific examples of the positive impact of suggested edits.

Differing creative visions for a project may arise between the editor and author, leading to conflicts over writing style, tone or overall direction. An editor envisions a more academic tone for a non-fiction book, while the author prefers a conversational style, resulting in disagreements over the manuscript’s voice. · Start with a detailed project brief and style guide to align creative visions.

· Discuss expectations and preferences early in the collaboration.

· When conflicts arise, seek compromises that honour both the editor’s expertise and the author’s creative input.

· Maintain open channels for ongoing dialogue.

Authors and editors may face challenges in adhering to project timelines and deadlines, causing delays and potential disruptions to publishing schedules. An author fails to submit revisions on time, impacting the editor’s ability to meet the publishing deadline and causing logistical challenges.

Note: This should never be a problem caused by an editor as it smacks of unprofessionalism.

· Set realistic and mutually agreed-upon deadlines from the outset.

· Establish a clear timeline with milestones and check-ins.

· Communicate openly about potential delays and address challenges proactively.

· Develop contingency plans for unexpected issues that may impact the timeline.

Contractual issues or legal disputes may arise, especially if there are disagreements over intellectual property rights, royalties or other contractual terms. The author disputes the terms of a contract, claiming a lack of clarity on the scope of the editor’s involvement, leading to a legal conflict. · Draft clear and comprehensive contracts outlining roles, responsibilities and rights. Agreements should be in writing and signed to seal the contract.

· Ensure both parties fully understand the terms before signing.

· In case of disputes, initiate open and honest discussions to identify the root cause.

· Consider involving legal professionals if necessary and explore mediation or arbitration as alternative dispute resolution methods.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About Jacqui Baumgardt

Jacqui has a PhD in Education Management from UNISA and a Certificate in Copy-Editing from UCT. Formerly a teacher of English and an academic manager of a professional body, she has years of experience in editing academic assignments, proposals, theses and dissertations, more especially in the field of business (eg MBA) and education. She is a Full Member of PEG.

About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.