5 Simple Ways to Build Great Writer-Editor Relationships

Carol Tice

Freelance writer has happy meeting with editorAs a writer and editor for more than 25 years, I’ve learned that one of the most important relationships you can cultivate is with your editor.

With a little time and attention to detail, not only will you earn their respect, but you’ll have a resource for ongoing work — as well as a reference for landing future work from other newspaper or magazine editors.

Here are five tips that can help writers build a strong writer-editor relationship:

Communicate often

Editors are busy — juggling writers, story lists, deadlines, and just doing more with less. They rely on writers to keep them informed of issues that arise.

Many writers are afraid to tell their editor if a story is going south, a deadline needs to be extended, or the assignment needs to be adjusted due to a new discovery. I’ve found that staying in touch with the editor along the way builds a better one-to-one relationship and has led to good advice on how to address these and other challenges in the future.

Check the facts

Don’t rely on others to do this for you. Before you submit your story, make sure you’ve sourced and reviewed all of your facts.

I recently started working with an editor who assigned me an entire special section on healthcare for a local business newspaper. I made sure I reviewed all of the relevant facts and figures before sending them through and provided the data source. The result was a note of thanks — and another special section assignment.

Double-check names

Never, ever misspell names. There is simply no excuse for it.

I always start interviews with, “Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way…Can you please give me your full name and spelling, and your title?”

They’ll be happy you asked, and they’ll respect your due diligence. So will your editor.

Respect your assignment parameters

One of my former editors shared a story about a freelance writer assigned to cover a new business opening. Photography was scheduled with another source.

What he received looked nothing like the assignment, and worse, the writer had taken his own photos and submitted an invoice! The editor killed the story and took the writer off his list. Don’t be that writer.

Be prepared for rewrites and corrections

Too many times I’ve had writers submit articles that clearly didn’t go through the above steps before they sent it in.

It is not the editor’s job to fill in your story’s gaps or to be your auto-correct. What you submit should be print ready, with the editor merely fine-tuning and assuring the article matches up with the assignment.

Good editor relationships are hard to come by. Be sure to let your editor know how much you appreciate yours, and thank them for their efforts.

How do you keep a good editor relationship going? Tell us in the comments below.

Mary Davis is a freelance writer who has worked in all forms of media and communications.



  1. Mridu Khullar Relph

    I love the current focus newspaper and magazines, Carol.

    My tip is to get them on the phone when you can (or try to meet them in person). That really helps create a personal relationship and keeps you top of mind. Your e-mails don’t get ignored when you’ve had a nice conversation with someone. (Though, of course, there are exceptions.)

  2. Rob

    I can only think of one editor I’ve actually spoken to. I live on the other side of the world from most of my clients and email is our most effective means of communication. In spite of this, I feel I know most of my editors after years of working with them. As far as I’m concerned, my one and only job is to relieve their stress and reduce their workload by sending them publication-ready copy.

  3. Mridu Khullar Relph

    Rob, I lived in India for 12 years and all my editors were either in the UK or US. I made it a point to talk to them over the phone specifically for that reason.

  4. Patrick

    Reading this post actually makes me quite happy – happy because I’m already doing all of these things. I always begin by getting the interviewee to spell their name over the phone – even if I’ve already communicated with them via email. It’s just a smart thing to do – I also ask for a preferred title.

    Great tips Carol!

  5. Cherese Cobb

    When I was on the newspaper staff in high school, I misspelled a girl’s name. The name that I ended up giving her due to my writing mishap was a male’s name–Alexander.

    Great tip on asking interviewees to spell out their names and give their titles. I now plan on starting all of my interviews out this way!

  6. Mary

    So great to see these comments! Mridu, glad to hear your commitment to talking to your editors despite the great geographical divide. Even writers must recognize we are living in a world economy. Thanks for the feedback!

  7. Tom Bentley

    Carol, all good stuff. My biggest tip is to be a human being, which is probably inclusive of a couple of your guidelines. I’ve had an ongoing relationship with an editor at The American Scholar for 2 years, the travel editor at the LA Times for 6 (article in there today), and the publisher at Airstream Life magazine for 10.

    It’s so much easier to pitch a story when you’ve had real conversations (as Mridu says) with your editor, whether in person, on the phone, or even in email. I’ve met two of the mentioned editors, and am very at ease with the other through email. Rewrites and edits go down so much easier if you see the editor as a respected (and friendly) colleague, working on your article’s behalf.

    • Carol Tice

      I personally took the time when I was visiting L.A. one year to take a half-dozen editors at one magazine out to lunch to get to know them better. I learned a ton and it helped me get a lot of assignments.

  8. Debbie

    As an editor, I just had my first — hopefully only — nightmare writer. She was new to the magazine, so I was very specific about who I wanted her to interview, the parameters of the article and gave her plenty of time with the assignment and asked her to check in w/ me re: her research (I wanted to know if she was headed in the right direction). Her research was OK but she looked like she was recycling stuff from an organization she was handling PR for (hello, conflict of interest) and then she ARGUED with me when I told her which points I wanted to use. She also complained about the word count and when I said she could take an extra 100 words, she asked for more money and then quit when I said no! Thank goodness I had a pro waiting in the wings to finish the job.

    • Carol Tice

      Eew, that’s so sleazy about the PR stuff. But I find so many writers don’t understand that you can’t work both sides of the fence on a story — posing as a ‘reporter’ while secretly promoting one of your PR clients.

  9. Victoria Terrinoni

    I worked with one editor who became a very good friend and we are still in touch today after 13 years apart. One of her frequent comments to me was how little rewriting or editing my articles needed because they were usually print ready. She really appreciated that. Another editor took me with her to her new job. I guess she liked my work as well!

    • Carol Tice

      Victoria, I have a similar story. I built a reputation for turning in work that was ready to pop in the publication…and I have one editor I’ve written for at *three* magazines. 😉 And several I’ve written for in more than one place.

  10. Tanya Adams

    Great tips!

  11. Mary

    As a writer AND a PR pro I know when to say NO on an assignment. Bad karma on this writer’s part!

  12. Elke Feuer

    I think communication and respecting assignment parameters are key. As a manager I know how important those are to me, so I show that respect to my editor. Besides, building great relationship is key to referrals and great friendships.

  13. Nicola Yeeles

    Good advice here Carol and after a meeting with one of my editors this morning, I can safely say that most of these points came up as reasons why she is working with me!

    My top tip to help build relationships is: go above and beyond. The editor wants 4 photos? Send them 5. They’ve asked for an idea? Send them a few to choose from. It’s no use being as good as the competition – you have to be better!

    • Carol Tice

      I’m a big fan of having multiple ideas up your sleeve…I’ve gotten so many assignments that way.

  14. Mare

    Multiple tips are a good idea, and easier to develop when you’ve built a good relationship with your editor as you start to get a feel for what he/she likes, follow up ideas from work you’ve produced in the past and trends you recognize from ongoing content development. I am working with a new market for about a month now and by using these tips, we’ve already developed a great synergy that is very positive, and it’s resulted in my being able to up-sell a couple of ideas we worked on together. That’s when you know you have a good relationship!

  15. Katharine Paljug


    Exactly what I was going to say! So many writers and freelancers I know seem to be petrified of communicating with their clients. They want to get an assignment, hand in the assignment, and have that be it.

    I think part of it is being afraid of bad news, and wanting to avoid hearing it at all costs. But I’ve always found that bad news is so much less likely with good communication!

  16. Allen Taylor

    I recently learned the importance of asking the right questions. I took an assignment and turned in a draft, got feedback from the editor, and waited. A week later, they wanted me to contact the subject of the story and get a response. I did. When I got a response the second time they were firing me because the story wasn’t “objective” enough. It was too slanted in one direction, and I thought I was delivering what they wanted based on the information I received in the spec e-mail.

    I saved the job and got another assignment (agreeing to take a reduced payout for the first article, which won’t be published) when I pointed out, respectfully, that they had looked at the article twice and failed to mention their disappointments until the final draft. Two people in fact looked at it twice.

    Lesson for me: Ask a lot of questions when you get your first assignment. Make sure you’re clear on article specifications.

  17. Stacey

    That’s great advice! I do feel a little bad for the freelance writer who shot photo’s and then wasn’t called to write again however, I feel it’s a great way to learn that lesson and don’t think they’ll do that again.

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