Editorial Triage

Editorial Triage. What does this mean? Well, usually it means that something has to go.

It happens. Every day an editor out there is performing editorial triage. In trying to meet an unreasonably short deadline, the editor has not fixed everything in a manuscript before saying “okay” and sending it up the ladder. It’s not new. It’s not pretty. But every editor has done this at least once in their career.

What does triaging mean?

Generally this means the editor has to decide what to edit and what not to edit. It’s best to talk this over with their managing editor first, to see what the top priorities are. (For example, in a business document the top priority might be to inform or persuade the reader about something, whereas in fiction, it might be something that would embarrass the publisher, like misspellings or inconsistent character facts.)

Then, the editor starts their work and does not fix everything in order to meet the deadline. The editor does not get to check off all the things on their usual list of things.

(Seriously, the list that contains ALL THE THINGS you normally check off when editing? Cut that down to five.)

This is a choice. And it’s a pretty hard one, too. We were trained to see errors and correct them. So leaving something unedited is like going to work without a water bottle or the lunch you specifically prepared. (Yes, it happened to me. I left my mason jar salad at home. And my water bottle. And I was sad.) It makes an editor sad, or disappointed at least, to not have done everything they could have in order to make the work shine.

It’s not fun.

But sometimes it’s necessary.

So the next time the big boss says there’s an unreasonably tight deadline and there needs to be an editorial triage. Sit down, list the priorities, and go to work.

(And try not to get too sad on the way home.)

Until next time!
Warm regards,


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