Coaching vs. Fixing

Our media editing class is reading “Coaching Writers” by Roy Peter Clark (@RoyPeterClark) of the Poynter Institute and Don Fry (@donaldkfry), a long-time writing coach. We are reflecting on what it means to “coach” a writer and on the differences between editors who “coach” and editors who “fix.” The students in the class are posting their responses to the following questions, but we invite anyone to join our conversation.

  1. Thinking of editing as “coaching” is probably a new idea to many of us. We’re usually trained, through English and journalism classes, to think of editing as “fixing” and “cleaning up.” Sometimes journalists new to the idea of coaching greet it with skepticism. Is “coaching” a novel concept to you? And if so, what do you think of it? Is it realistic? Worthwhile? Could you apply it to your experiences in class, with campus media, or in an internship? What questions do you have about how coaching might work?
  2. Think about your experience with editors (or with teachers who have graded your journalistic writing). Were they primarily “coaches” or “fixers”? Give examples of the kind of feedback you received from them, and what you learned from that feedback. Which kind of editor did you prefer? If you have done some editing, which kind of editor are you? Which kind do you want to be? If you share unhappy tales of an editor or teacher, please don’t include their names. Feel free, however, to name the editors you praise.

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55 responses to “Coaching vs. Fixing

  1. I have experienced both kinds of editors in my journalism career. When I wrote for a city newspaper, my editor was M.I.A. throughout the writing and interview process. There was very little communication after she assigned a story, and by the time the article was published, it barely contained my original content. I agree with the book in that the “fixing” editor’s technique creates a barrier between writer and editor. Without that communication as to why things were changed, I faced a lack of confidence in writing ability. My positive experience with an editor, on the other hand, has taught me how I want to perform as an editor. His style was a constructive mix of “coaching” and “fixing.” He’d provide feedback—whether in-person or via email—several times before the article’s final deadline. Most of his critiques were in the “coaching” form, like requests to follow-up with the source or tips on how to organize the article. But I also appreciated when he provided the “fixing” examples, too. For instance, my editor would rewrite an entire paragraph and say, “Something like this would work better here.” He’d show, not just say, what he was expecting, and that provided a clean-cut example of what I needed to do. I favor the mixed technique because it allows for growth within the writer while giving the editor’s exact expectations.

    • You hit on something important: the erosion of a writer’s confidence when writing is “edited” until it’s unrecognizable. Anybody else have that experience?

      • I definitely have. When my first article was going to be published online, I, of course, expected it to be edited. But when I first saw it posted, I was discouraged that only bits and pieces of my original story remained. I didn’t even feel like I earned the byline. My editor had told me that my original was good, so I was surprised to see so many changes had taken place.

      • I had a similar experience with the intro of a story I wrote. My editor only told me, “Make this more intriguing,” rather than rewriting the paragraph and saying, “This is what I want,” like you had, Melissa. When I saw my story online, the intro didn’t sound like my voice at all and was unrecognizable. When I’m published and the story has my name in the byline, I want my voice to be heard––not my editor’s.

      • I had the very same experience! This was so frustrating to me because I really liked my intro the way it was but when my editor changed so much of it, I didn’t feel like it was really mine. I was upset that I wasn’t just told to change it myself before it went up online. My editor also made a typo in the changes they made, so I ended up looking kind of stupid even though it wasn’t me that made the mistake.

  2. I am a tutor in the Writing Workshop here at Drake University, a position that requires a one credit course in order to be eligible for hire. Because of that course, I am actually fairly familiar with the concepts of “coaching” vs. “fixing.” In the tutoring class, we called them “facilitative” and “directive” approaches to editing, and I think those terms work well in conjunction with the coaching vs. fixing ideas. Facilitative tutoring still leaves power in the writer’s hands, while directive tutoring takes that power away. Coaching seems to work the same way that facilitative tutoring does because it involves two people working together, rather than one fixing or directing and ultimately silencing the writer. Personally, I am still learning how to be a coach. It’s easy at times to make the changes that make the most sense to me, rather than considering the writer’s vision, so it was exciting to read about some new strategies to help me be a more facilitative coach. The strategy that stood out to me was having curiosity and asking questions. One of my favorite parts of this reading occurred when Foley asked Clark a series of questions that forced him to think about an interesting focus to his story. I think this strategy can be used in many situations: peer review in class, meetings with editors for Drake Magazine, or even with future bosses. I’ve been lucky enough to have some editors/teachers/professors that were willing to take the time to meet with me about my writing, answering my questions and asking a few of their own. Here at Drake, one of my favorite editors is Professor West, who can actively and excitedly talk about a novel in a way that helps the student’s own ideas develop. Ideally, I will have coaches like her in future internships and jobs, and I emulate her more facilitative style of editing.

    • I’m still learning to be a better coach, too, and I’ve been doing it for years. An upcoming chapter in “Coaching Writers” gives concrete, specific strategies that are easy to apply. You’ll find that valuable, I think.

      Also glad that you noted question-asking as a coaching strategy. We’ll talk tomorrow about how editing is not the rewriting of material; it’s the asking of questions.

    • I also really liked the questions that Foley asked Clark. “How the heck does a car fall on a man?” and “How did they get it off him?” are pretty obvious questions, but they serve more than one purpose. By asking these simple questions Foley is showing Clark that he trusts Clark to write the story. He’s also guiding Clark towards the interesting details. This shows that being a coach isn’t as difficult as it seems and reiterates that it is the better editing method.

  3. Emily VanSchmus

    Involvement in journalism since my junior high days has given me the opportunity to work with several kinds of editors. In the early days, these editors were strictly fixers, either a student or teacher who would rearrange my commas in the football or cheerleading story. As I got to high school and became involved with an award-winning journalism program, I had the opportunity to work with coachers. Our yearbook advisor was an excellent coacher – she always focused on what made the story stand out from any other year. If you turned in a generic story about how the football team won some and lost some she would hand the story back to you and send you on your way to find a new angle and write a better story. She would tell us what needed to change, but how we went about actually making those changes was entirely up to us. This made me a much better writer, because I learned how to write better stories the first time around.

    When I became an editor myself, I found out it is a lot easier to be coached than to coach. Fixing is easier and faster than coaching. When you have a vision in your head for the story, it is so much easier to make the changes yourself and make that vision come true. It’s a lot more difficult to let someone else come up with a version of that vision, but the end product is a better writer who will eventually need less editing and coaching, as well as a more original piece of work from the writer. Being coached is more work as a writer, but it always gives me a sense of pride in the finished product because I know I had to work extra hard for it, and being a coacher eventually is a lot more rewarding too, not only to the writer but to the publication as a whole.

    • Sounds like you had a great yearbook adviser. Wish everyone was so fortunate.

      The notion of who — the writer or the editor — has control of a story is a great question to wrestle with. Is there ever a time when an editor has to seize control? Or should control always rest with the writer?

    • I was on my school’s yearbook staff as well. As EIC, I didn’t focus so much on what the staff’s stories’ words were. I was more focussed on their angle. At the beginning of the school year, the advisor and I urged staffers to think of an interesting angle and how they were going to achieve it. We talked to the staffers and helped them with any questions in angles or interview question. I feel like helping them know how to be journalists and not just staff writers made the stories more desirable to read by the student body. It also saved a lot of time during the editing process for the copy chief and the writer.

  4. Molly Lamoureux

    1. When discussing fixing vs. coaching, the latter is the more positive of the two methods of editing. I’ve had experiences with both fixing and coaching, being both the editor at some times and the writer at other times. From my personal experience, coaching is more positive because it helps the writer develop skills by realizing what they have done wrong and learning how to do it more efficiently and effectively in the future. Coaching also strengthens the bond between editor and writer, which creates good morale in the workplace. When I interned at my city hall, I wrote newsletters for the citizens. I’d hand in my draft to my editor, and he would coach me by explaining what needed to be fixed, but then letting me fix it myself. If he would have fixed it for me without letting me know what I did wrong, I would have never learned from my mistakes, and I would have kept making the same mistakes over and over again. Fixing is not a good method for editing, especially in a learning environment.

    2. I briefly mentioned my internship experience already, but many of my editors have been coaches as well. I’ve been lucky enough to not have to experience “fixers”, at least not in important situations. My high school english and honors teacher was a great coach. I’d write essays and research papers, and he would mark things that he thought I could improve on. He then scheduled meetings with me to go over my mistakes, and help me brainstorm on things I could do to fix them (look for different resources, approach the story from a different angle, etc.)

    In high school, I was also a student teacher for 7th grade English. My job was primarily to coach the kids on how to write better. Especially at such a critical learning age, coaching is very important as opposed to fixing. If students spelled words wrong, used improper grammar, or didn’t format a story correctly, it was my job to explain to them what was wrong and then coax them to figure out how they can fix it themselves. It’s all a learning process.

    • Your experiences reveal something important: a writer needs to be willing to be coached. It sounds like you were open to constructive criticism and willing to invest the time and effort to respond and revise in the face of that criticism. I think most writers crave feedback and want to improve, but I’ve run into a few who resisted. Has anybody else?

      • I have run into a couple resistant writers, and what’s most intriguing is when I look back on it, the people that were most resistant were the ones I just “fixed” rather than “coached.” I think there’s a definite correlation when it comes to which writers want feedback and their past experiences with editors.

      • melissastudach

        I have most definitely faced writers who have resisted feedback. I can appreciate someone sticking up for their voice and a quote they truly believe in, but it can most definitely make editing a challenge. I have also had experience with those who have never had their work edited before and are very hesitant to receiving criticism. It’s certainly taught me how to word a peer evaluation and organize my feedback.

    • I thought your point about coaching’s affect on workplace morale was really interesting. My parents always say that work is a four letter word, but the bond between editor and writer can help make our jobs as journalists easier and more enjoyable. When I’m writing an interesting story, I love having someone who is willing to listen to my ideas, ask questions, and help me brainstorm. A coach/editor can provide that sounding board, which will produce more inspiration and ultimately lead to better writing. I feel most motivated when I am enjoying my project, so boosting workplace morale would be very beneficial to a newsroom or other media hub.

  5. I have had pretty good experiences with editors. My most recent experience was with Professor Inman in J91, and it was definitely a positive one. Inman was always helpful when he gave feedback. He never “yelled and chewed his cigar” like the editors in the reading. He was always respectful of what I wrote, and even when he tore my work apart, he was still being constructive and giving me good advice. I would consider Inman a good example of a “coach,” because he didn’t just fix my stories, he explained to me what I could/should change about it and why. This caused me to look at my story in a different way, and that method really helped me to improve as a writer. When I edit my peers’ stories, I would consider myself to be more of a coach rather than a fixer as well. I don’t just fix the mistakes, I make note of them on paper and then I like to explain to the writer what they could do differently and why. It seems like merely “fixing” a story leads to very little improvement for the writer. If they aren’t being told why and how to fix what they did wrong, they will continue to make the same mistakes time and time again.

    • I think being a “fixing” editor would get so frustrating: you’d constantly be making the same edits over and over.

      That said, there is a time to fix. I don’t think you can be all coach, all the time. On deadline, when the presses must roll in 20 minutes, it’s OK to be in “fixer” mode, I think.

    • In my post, I sang similar praises of Professor Inman’s editing style. Although he did the “tough love” thing, he was always approachable, always kind and always, always constructive. That’s what I look for in an editor and hope to do as an editor in the future.

  6. 1. Since I work in the Writing Workshop, “coaching” writing is a lot of what I’m paid to do, and I lean toward that style of editing in general. Though I’m more experienced with coaching academic writing and papers, I think coaching should absolutely be practiced in journalism, especially at the early stages in writing. Through my own experience as a tutor I’ve seen better results with a “coaching” rather than “fixing” style, and in general, students are just more responsive to it in the long run.

    2. My editors/teachers have been mostly a mix of coachers and fixers, and non have particularly stood out to me in their editing methods. I know I always have felt dumb when I see an entire sentence just crossed out. This happened a lot more my freshman year in a couple of instances where I put a lot of work into some publications, received very little help during the writing process or indication of what to improve, and then read the final product confused and, frankly, hurt by how much they had changed. I guess that comes with having pride as a writer. I think I definitely respond better to the coachers, because they force me to think of the “why”. They’ll ask me why I included that sentence or quote so I’m forced to reflect and come to my own conclusions. I think, of course, when it comes to the more technical side of things, like grammar and syntax, the “fixing” method works best and is totally necessary.

    • Good point about coaching in the early stages of writing. Ideally, coaching should start at the idea phase and continue throughout reporting, drafting, organizing, writing, revising and even post-publication.

      A crossed-out sentence doesn’t help a writer unless it’s explained, does it? Was it poorly written? Repetitive? Out of order? Who knows? The other editing comment that drives me nuts is “awk,” for “awkward.” Like that’s helpful at all without a suggested rewording.

    • Interesting point about feeling hurt because your piece of work has been changed without notification or explanation. If by publications you mean publications ran by students, I completely can relate. I’ve had this happen to where fixer editors don’t even notify me that something was wrong to begin with. This has even happened in my college experience. I think it’s really important to coach a writer, not only for a writer’s ego but also to improve that writer’s skill.

    • I agree that when it comes to grammar and the technicality of sentences, fixing is okay or should be tolerant in the writer’s point of view. I also think that you brought up a good point in that coaches should ask questions. In the article they pose a good example of this when the editor asks what happened and what the story was about. You refer to that, and I think asking why is a very good transition to a good story.

  7. I have experienced both types of editing–sometimes from the same editor. My journalism teacher in high school initially taught me a lot about journalism, but when it came to editing, she was typically a fixer. Once she was done teaching, her editing (mostly just fixing grammatical errors and leaving the rest of the article as it was) didn’t teach me that much. However, editors that I’ve worked with at Drake are completely different. They teach us, but then continue to teach through editing our writing. It’s clear that they read our articles thoroughly and try to help us get it to the best level that we can. I definitely prefer these kinds of editors.

    I have also had some experience being the editor. I’d say I’m also both. I try to be a “coach,” but sometimes catch myself being a fixer. “Fixing” may improve the article, but it doesn’t necessarily benefit the writer. “Coaching” improves both. The biggest thing that has kept me from being a coach is not wanting to come across as thinking I’m better than the writer. But I’ve realized that I shouldn’t be afraid of that, because anyone can be a coach. Stronger writers can still benefit from less-experienced editors. These readings have made me want to be a coach all the time.

    • The “not wanting to come across as thinking I’m better than the writer” is a legitimate concern. One way to avoid that is to always couch your suggestions and criticism as what’s best for the reader, not something that you, as the editor, want. If you appeal to a writer’s desire to serve and be understood by the reader, a writer will usually respond favorably.

    • I completely agree that anyone can coach. I wonder if even newer writers can “coach” more experienced writers by acting as a sounding board and offering new perspectives on old strategies. Not that the old rules are invalid; I just think that a new writer can add enthusiasm to a project that might seem mundane to an older journalist. Also, when I worked with you on my gender-specific product story for Drake Magazine, I felt that your editing style was much closer to coaching than fixing. I was barely three weeks into my news writing course, so I was pretty clueless, but you made me feel a lot more confident by highlighting my successes and giving suggestions for how to improve. I’m definitely a better writer after working with you, and I don’t think that would be the case if you relied on “fixing.”

    • I really like what you said about how “fixing” improves the article, but “coaching” improves the writer AND the article. After all, if (as an editor) all you do is run around fixing other people’s problems, you won’t cultivate a group of students/employees/journalists who can work independently to solve problems and then in turn provide better content for your publication.

    • Like Sydney, I also thought it was interesting that you mentioned that fixing benefits the story, but coaching benefits both the story and the writer. I think this is a great point because it would be so easy to just fix the story and move on, and that probably seems like the fastest route; however, if you coach, you can improve the story and the writer as well, meaning that the writer is less likely to make the same mistake again, saving you time in the long run.

  8. My first experience with editors started my freshman year of high school. I joined the school newspaper, but the actual class for it didn’t fit in my schedule. Instead, me and another girl had a journalism study hall where we worked on our stories without our editor-in-chief or section editors present. Because of this I had little communication with my editors. I would write a story up and give it to our adviser who would then give it to the editor. I would say there’s very little coaching involved and instead the edits I got back the next day were reworded sentences that no longer were my own work. It hindered my creativity and I rarely took risks. We lacked communication. If we would have had coaching to begin with, I think we could have produced more compelling stories with a storytelling aspect instead of cut and dry facts.

    I didn’t have a “coach” until taking J91 with Inman. While I still took a big hit to my ego, realizing how much I had to work on my writing, he worked with me from the pitch all the way to the final product. He would give criticism and suggestions, especially if my pitch wasn’t going to become a good story. The final product still felt like my own work and I didn’t feel like I had to compromise my creativity.

    Flash back to senior year of high school when I became the editor-in-chief of my newspaper, I made sure to try to coach reporters without realizing that was what I was doing. I helped reporters from the very beginning of the story assignment and tried to motivate them to really put their own voice in their stories. Instead of just marking up their stories with red pen, I would sit with them and edit their stories with them one on one.

    • I like this: “We could have produced more compelling stories with a storytelling aspect instead of cut and dry facts.” It should always be about the good storytelling, right?

      Lack of communication is just killer. The professions of writing and editing can tend to draw people who are reserved, shy or “conflict-averse.” They think writing or editing is a solitary pursuit, and that appeals to them. But writing/editing/publishing is highly collaborative, and a big part of being a good editor is learning good people skills.

      • Before switching to journalism, I definitely saw writing/editing as something for the individual. But I’ve found the collaborative effort definitely makes the process more fun and ultimately more fruitful. My best ideas have come from just throwing around ideas with others; that’s when I get those “aha” moments. I agree that editors should have good people skills, and it’s a valuable trait for writers, as well. Another post mentioned the will to be coached, and people skills would definitely contribute to that: being willing to hear out others and take constructive criticism (and not lash out).

  9. susannashayward

    1. During the fall semester I co-found Drake Political Review, a nonpartisan political journal on Drake’s campus. Building DPR became one of the best learning experience in my college career, along with the learning curve of “coaching.” Our shortened editing process made “fixing” an article the go-to job of each editor on staff. However, weeks of “fixing” turned into weeks of headache and overlooked mistakes. After reading Coaching Writers, I realized “coaching” becomes a necessary part to the editing process. I can rewrite sentence structure all day long, but an editors job is to enhance a writer’s work from another point of view and not to use their words as placeholder text for an idea. I think becoming a coach versus an editor is realistic and a necessity with ample time and patience, editors can turn writers into journalists.

    • I agree that fixing can take a lot longer than people sometimes think. Before reading these articles, I knew that “coaching” led to stronger writers and better stories, but I didn’t realize that it actually can shorten the editing process. I thought that coaching was something that was worth the extra time. But in reality, by spending time coaching writers, editors minimize the time they’ll need to spend fixing.

    • ‘Weeks of “fixing” turned into weeks of headache and overlooked mistakes.’ Ugh, I’ve been there, too, and feel your pain. So much time and energy gets wasted, doesn’t it?

      I find the main flaw in the work of collegiate journalists is not so much the quality of writing, as it is the quality of the reporting. If the reporting isn’t there, an editor can’t do much to salvage a manuscript.

    • I really like your quote “editors can turn writers into journalists.” I agree with you. By turning writers into journalists, editors can save a lot of time trying to “fix” stories. Usually the problem with stories isn’t grammar and spelling (I mean that’s an issue) but, it’s with content. If editors thought their writers their skills in reporting, they would have reporters with stories that have better content.

  10. Early in high school, my English teachers were primarily fixers when they edited and graded my essays. I would get comments like, “This sounds awkward,” and “you need another sentence here”: their edits didn’t help me grow as a writer in voice or in style. It wasn’t until I took journalism my Senior year of high school that I had an instructor who worked as a coach. Jason Wallestad was the journalism advisor for the school paper, “The Knight Errant,” and he really fostered my passion for writing. I would get grammar and syntax critiques from Mr. Wallestad, but I would also get a paragraph or two at the bottom of my story’s draft giving me things to think about stylistically and helping me grow in creativity as a writer. Another coach I had, more recently, was Professor Inman. He was very blunt with his comments, he wasn’t afraid to tell me what he thought and he pushed me out of my comfort zone as a writer. I got a lot of instruction to “completely restructure,” which scared me, but made me think about my content in a completely different way. I needed Inman’s “tough love” as an editor to mature my stories to completion and to mature as a writer in general. While fixers give edits that are easier to correct, coaches get beyond the surface-level mistakes and allow writing to take writers to new places. The editing style I prefer is a combination of a fixer and a coach, coaching more in the early drafts of a story then fixing when a story is in its final draft. Since I prefer this combination of editing for my work, I try to bring both sides of editing to others’ work when I edit.

    • First, “Knight Errant” is the best HS newspaper name ever. Second, Inman’s going to get a big head. Third, I like the distinction you make with appreciating coaching early in the process but fixing toward the end.

    • I really like how you said as “fixers give edits that are easier to correct” which I agree with completely! It’s true! If an editor tells me that I should get rid of paragraph 3 for a one word reason, I’m pretty certain of what I have to do to please them for the next draft. But if they write “How could you make this paragraph connect to the rest of the story? It feels a little out of place.” I would have to think a lot more, perhaps write different versions of the paragraph, restructure and find a better place, or just get rid of it. I would still know what my editor wanted, but have more freedom and the chance to grow as a writer.

  11. I didn’t have any experience with journalistic editing until I came to Drake. In high school, though, my English teachers were definitely more “fixers.” The most clear example in my mind is from junior year when my teacher would write “wrong word” on our papers, yet she never explained what she wanted instead. What I’ve discovered, though, is that my experiences with “coaching” (a concept with which I was familiar but never had a name until now) came once my editor, whether professor or teacher, came to know me. Once they recognized my voice and style, they could make recommendations based on my writing that would also still fix whatever problem they saw. They could ask the right questions, as Clark points out. In high school, this was the teacher who had me for both my freshman and senior English courses. In college, professors seem to become better editors as the semester progresses, which I understand.

    Working the same editor for DrakeMag, too, has been a positive experience. The second time around, she was able to coach me based on our previous interactions, as opposed just to fixing my article.

    I’d also like to share that reading this made me think about my own (informal) editing style. It seems that I lean more toward the “fixer” side, though I do think I have some coaching tendencies. It’s something I look forward to working on.

    • The personal relationship you mention is so so important. A good writer-editor relationship is rooted in trust. A writer can take tough feedback if she trusts the editor’s motive and judgments. And you’re absolutely right about being able to customize your editing advice once you get to know a writer and her idiosyncrasies. Each writer responds differently. With some writers, I can be blunt and snarky; but other writers wilt under that. Being an editor really is like being a psychologist: you have to get inside each writer’s head and learn what motivates them and what they respond best to.

    • I completely agree that an editor should have a relationship with the writer rather than just a “coworker” status. In a job setting, if you’re able to grow the editor-writer relationship, it will result in a better product in the end. As a side note, this also makes a more cohesive writing style or voice. If the writer is gone for some reason or has a very tight deadline, the editor may be able to reconstruct some work without destroying the voice of the writer.

    • I thought about the trust factor during this reading assignment as well, except mine was from the writer’s point of view. I agree that when the editor knows the writer, he or she has a better chance of coaching the writer. But I think when the writer has worked previously with the editor, he or she has a better idea of the editor’s expectations. This proves that coaching not only shortens the editing process, but it also benefits the editor when having to work with the writer again.

  12. 2. I’ve had experience with both “fixers” and “coaches.” I find that I work best under the influence of coaches, and I expect most people to agree with that. In previous classes, my course instructors were excited to work with me to enhance an article I had written. Because of their prior teaching experience, they were more than willing to guide me in the right direction. However, I have noticed that during peer evaluations or peer edits, the opposite result happens. Most students rely on their previous knowledge to scribble notes in the margins and cross out information that is not necessary, merely fixing issues in the writing. I’ve also noticed that this happens more often when people hand off their work to be looked at rather than discussing the work together. If there is discussion involved, coaching happens naturally. I think if I were to categorize myself, in a class setting, I would be a “fixer,” but I always aspire to be a coach, whether in a class setting or not.

    • Peer editing would be a good topic to explore (either now or later). How can we, as teachers and students, make peer editing more fruitful?

    • I completely agree that having a conversation between writer and editor makes peer sessions more productive. When I talk to people about their work, I get a better idea of what they were trying to accomplish and thus can help them improve more readily than reading something without background information or understanding of intent. Discussion makes peer editing a two-way experience rather than a one-way street.

  13. I’ve always thought that editing should have been done as “coaching” vs. “fixing”. I think “fixing” has its place in correcting grammar and spelling mistakes, but “coaches” are better for creating a better story by giving the writers tips, advice and critiques. When I edit, I believe I’m a “coach”. I’m not great at fixing edits such as grammar and spelling, but I would like to think that I give helpful advice. I personally enjoy talking to the writer about their story and what I think is helpful. Being a student in the graphic design program, when we peer critique projects we have to explain why or why not we think something is good, bad or effective.
    In high school, I had a teacher who was a balanced “coach” and “fixer”. First, she said are papers were allowed to be as long as it needed to be. 2nd, she would “fix” our papers of common mistakes and then “coach” us by leaving notes through and at the end of the paper about what can be fixed to make a stronger paper. And 3rd, she was available for one-on-one meetings.

    • I like that in your design classes, you’re required to give your reasons for why a project is good/bad/effective. As an editor, you must be willing and able to explain and defend every change you make. And the reason can’t be “Meh, it just sounds better” or “Ummmm, I just like it better my way.”

    • Emily VanSchmus

      Having someone who can balance coaching and fixing is awesome! It’s hard to coach people to put commas in the right place and to spell everything right all the time, so fixing can come in handy sometimes. I like what you said about critiquing projects in the graphic design program, because I think sometimes we, as writers, get too caught up with the grammatical details and word choice, and we forget to look at the big picture of the story.

  14. I’ve experienced both types of editors in my life thus far. From editors I consider “fixers” I’ve received papers or articles with a lot of scribbled corrections (or changes) all over them, but no reasons given as to what I did wrong. Worse yet, I’ve also received assignments back with just a grade and no feedback whatsoever. To me, this defeats the purpose of doing the assignment in the first place because I’m left feeling like I didn’t gain anything from it. The editors I’ve had who were “coaches” told me what I could improve on and what I did well. These types of editors might say something like “Need to condense this paragraph.” or “Reword lead for clarity.” rather than rewriting whole sections or just crossing off sentences. I definitely prefer editors who coach because I come away feeling like I gained something valuable from the experience rather than simply having another person attack my work. When I edit the work of others, I tend to leave A LOT of notes in the margins and sometimes people panic when I hand their articles back, thinking that I’m tearing their piece apart like the readings said. However, I leave a lot of positive comments and highlight things that were done well because I think those are just as important and useful to the writer as constructive criticism. (I know that I’d want to know what I was doing right so I’d make sure to continue doing it.) Overall, I strive to coach but I also tend to zero in on fixing grammatical errors rather than looking at the piece as a whole sometimes, so I could do better with that aspect.

    • I can’t believe you received no feedback on your work. If you simply receive a grade, how can you improve your work or continue to put the effort into your writing?

      I really like your method of editing; Nothing makes me feel more confident in my writing than an editor that throws in some praises with their constructive criticism. For me, I thrive off the approval of my professors or respected editors because I like to think they know what they’re doing. The reading mentioned that coaches do not treat writers like someone who is beneath them or lesser than them. Having said that, I guess it’s not always the editor’s word over yours.

  15. In high school, I mainly had editors who were “fixers”. They merely corrected grammar and spelling mistakes in my writing, but did not give much feedback into how I could improve the style or content of my writing. However, in college I have received more of a “coaching” approach from professors. I have had two professors in particular, Professor Lindsay Gilbert and Professor Kodee Wright, who I would say were very good coaches. They did not just correct spelling and grammar, but gave constructive feedback into how to improve my writing skills and were able to do so while leaving my creative voice intact. When I edit, I think I am a mixture of a “fixer” and a “coach”. I definitely make grammar and spelling edits, but I also give suggestions as to how to improve the overall quality of the writing. I think, however, after reading these chapters, that I probably tend to lean more towards the “fixer” side. I want to work towards becoming a better coach through this class.

    • I think its interesting that you noticed this difference between high school and college. Do you think you were influenced to be more of a “fixer” because you had more experience with that in high school? It’s interesting how things from back then can still have an effect even now…

      • Stephanie Gaub

        Yes, Brita! I think that definitely influenced me. I can get really nitpick about spelling and grammar and things like that when editing. It was helpful to me when professors/teachers would have you peer edit and require that you give the writer comments about the strengths and weaknesses of their writing – rather than just correcting their grammar.

    • Emily VanSchmus

      I also had Lindsay Gilbert as a professor, and she was one of the best professors I’ve ever had just because she was so good at coaching. I definitely agree with you about tending to want to be a fixer, but I also thing learning to be coached helps with becoming a coacher, so with a few more good coaching professors hopefully it will be a more even balance.

  16. Emily VanSchmus

    I also had Lindsay Gilbert as a professor, and she was one of the best professors I’ve ever had just because she was so good at coaching. I definitely agree with you about tending to want to be a fixer, but I also thing learning to be coached helps with becoming a coacher, so with a few more good coaching professors hopefully it will be a more even balance.

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