Can you elaborate on your background that led you to build editing teams for businesses?

In the 2010s, I led Copyediting, which was a source of training for editors, offering a premium newsletter, webinars, and other content. As the editor-in-chief, it was my job to manage all of our writers and editors. I had opportunities to search for and hire freelancers and, in rare cases, to release freelancers. I also had the opportunity to support the writers and editors in improving their skills, as well as managing projects.

About the same time, I also taught in the copyediting certificate program at the University of California, San Diego. That experience helped me grow as an editing teacher and coach. There’s no one right way to edit text; rather, there are many approaches to correcting errors and improving the text. As a teacher, you can’t just mark an editor wrong. You have to evaluate why it’s wrong and share the thinking with the editor, guiding them toward how to make decisions better next time.

Both of those experiences gave me the skills I needed to run editing teams within my own business. More importantly, though, they gave me the desire to do it. I want to be able to help other editors grow their skills and help them earn a living.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in building and managing editing teams?

One of the biggest challenges is finding the right editors for the work your company takes on. There are a lot of talented editors out there, but not everyone specializes in the business and marketing copy Right Touch Editing handles. In addition, I need editors who are comfortable with how I communicate with my team and who have availability that at least roughly matches our projects’ timelines. In addition to skills and availability, I’m looking for a good cultural fit. Good team members are comfortable working with other editors on the same project and being part of a small community that cheers each other on beyond the work at hand.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see businesses make with their content?

We all make mistakes in our writing; we’re human after all! That’s what copyediting and proofreading are about. One of the most common issues I see in business writing, though, is a mismatch between the style of the writing and the audience the writing is intended for. For example, the writing might be too formal and stiff for a customer audience, with long sentences, long paragraphs, and jargon that’s not defined, making the reading a chore. In those cases, we help our clients break up long passages, define necessary jargon, remove unnecessary jargon, and generally help make the tone friendlier and more approachable. We don’t do that at will, however. We talk to our clients about their goals and the best approach for the writing project. Only with the client’s approval do we adjust writing style and tone.

How can strong editing skills enhance brand reputation and client relationships?

Strong editing skills can help you evaluate your brand and refine it with the brand’s audience in mind. When we’re new to branding, we often keep the spotlight focused on ourselves rather than our clients. Editing is all about balancing the writer’s (and publisher’s) desires with the reader’s needs. Our branding needs to reflect us while communicating the client’s needs and the solution (our editing) to those needs.

You mentioned a passion for “conscious language.” Can you explain what that means to you and how it impacts your editing approach?

“Conscious language” is a term coined by author and editor Karen Yin. She defines it as thinking “critically about using language—including words, portrayals, framing, and representation—to empower instead of limit.” At Right Touch Editing, we edit with this in mind. Are the text and context showing an undesirable bias that will reflect poorly on our client? Does the text speak for a person or group rather than allowing them to speak for themselves? How can we help our clients respect the people they write about?

What inspires you most about running Right Touch Editing?

I love being able to support more clients and to support fellow editors. I never liked turning away a project because I didn’t have time do the work. That left the client to try to find someone else. Running an agency, I’ve already found other editors and can match the best editor to the project, providing work for my colleagues. Building a freelance editing business can be challenging, and we all suffer from the feast-or-famine cycle. I love that I can help minimize another editor’s famine cycles.

As someone who thrives on saving the day, can you describe a challenging project your team successfully navigated?

Last summer, a client came to me with a long, complicated but prestigious book project. The project had had challenges along the way, but they were finally at the proofreading stage. The proofread was complicated: because the project was late and the book would publish in multiple languages at the same time, the proofreading needed to be done on the English version and then corrections sent to the translators, who were working on an early version of the book. It took two people to do the project: one to proofread and one to coordinate all the changes, which were coming in as we proofed, and ensure the translators received them all. While one person could do it, it would have meant more delays. By having two editors on the job, we could meet the deadline and preserve the quality of the work.

Beyond editing, what are some of your interests and hobbies that influence your work ethic or perspective?

I’m an enthusiastic but not particularly advanced hiker, and I hike in New England, where trails are commonly difficult. You need to take trail conditions and weather seriously to keep out of danger and hike prepared. You need patience for challenges on the trail, like a portion of the trail being washed out due to recent rains or a particularly rocky section that you need to navigate slowly. Hiking trails in these parts are not straight paths; sometimes you’re taking the long way to the top. And not every trail is going to be doable. Sometimes it’s just not the day for you on that trail or maybe it’s not a trail that you want to work hard enough and long enough to conquer.
Running a business can be like hiking. You need to understand what’s involved and gather the skills and knowledge to tackle some of the challenges on your path. Sometimes a chosen path isn’t for you. That’s okay! You might take a different path or try again another day. I’m on my second attempt of running an agency. The first time, I didn’t have the right tools, my business skills were weaker, and the timing was just off. These days, I know more, I have access to better tools, and the timing seems to be working out.

What advice would you give to someone looking to improve their writing skills?

You want to start with a good understanding of the style of writing you want to improve on and how that writing works. With that knowledge, you want to practice as much as you can. Write every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Find writing exercises that focus on the skills you’re working on or create your own. Rewrite old copy. Make up assignments. Whatever it takes to get yourself to the desk and writing.

Where do you see the future of editing services heading in the age of advanced technology and automation?

While I worry about writers losing work due to advanced technology and automation, I think they’ll provide opportunities for editors. Clients who use technology and automation to write for them will quickly realize that computers are not great writers. They’re fine for an informal email to a colleague, saving you time in a busy day. But for writing that makes a difference—writing that will persuade your customers or superiors for example—you need specialized, refined writing. If you’ve depended on technology to help you write quicker, you want to ensure that the writing is closely edited by a language professional. Technology can produce some odd-sounding, factually incorrect text. You need a skilled, human editor to correct the errors and polish the text so that it sounds like you, not a robot.

Erin Brenner gray shirt cropped

Erin Brenner , Owner, Right Touch Editing

Erin Brenner is the owner of Right Touch Editing, a boutique editorial agency that specializes in helping small and midsize businesses to be more engaging with their audiences, more persuasive in their marketing, and clearer and more precise in their communications.

Erin is also the author of The Chicago Guide for Freelance Editors: How to Take Care of Your Business, Your Clients, and Yourself from Start-Up to Sustainability, a step-by-step guide that helps editors launch a freelance business and grow it to a sustainable level. Erin offers coaching and soon a workbook to help editors on their journey to a business they love.

Erin is the 2024 winner of the Robinson Prize from ACES: The Society of Editing, as well as awards for copywriting from the New England Direct Marketing Association (NEDMA). She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute for Editing and Proofreading and a Full Member of ACES. Follow her on LinkedIn and Bluesky.


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