General Question

peedub's avatar

Professional editing for a law school personal statement?

Asked by peedub (8698points) December 31st, 2008

Good idea or waste of money?

Any experiences/recommendations?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

10 Answers

JohnRobert's avatar

Write one yourself and and then post it on here for some tweaking. There are some pretty smart brainiacs here in the Collective. I would put them against any self-proclaimed “professional editor” any day.

Plus, Flutter advice is free!

peedub's avatar

Not a bad idea, thanks.

susanc's avatar

Plus, pee, let’s face it, you’re a wonderful writer.

peedub's avatar

Ha! I wish, but thanks.

gailcalled's avatar

If you ask the collective, peedub, you might get a free-for-all. There is one among us who used to be a professional proof-reader (and it’s not me). Perhaps she will step forward.

Jeruba's avatar

@Peedub, editing is always a good idea. Everybody needs an editor—including the editor. But whether a particular editor is a waste of money depends not only on the editor’s competence and on your ability to work together but on the condition of the work you offer for editing. Silk purses out of sow’s ears: we do it all the time. But an editor can’t do the job of the writer.

Although I usually charge for my editing services, I have edited law school personal statements several times as a professional courtesy (and once as the mother of an applicant who is now a 3L in the top tier of his class). One former colleague (now a lawyer) says I got her into Boalt Hall. I wouldn’t mind giving your statement the once-over, but I can’t commit to a deep transformation.

I don’t believe in editing by committee. Results can be disastrous.

JohnRobert's avatar

Jeruba, you have a good point about seeking a professional. But how does one know the confidence level of a particular editor? I’m reminded of people I’ve met who “design websites”, but produce garage-band quality. Also, I hired several technical writers a couple years ago. One was great, and the others were not. I had to have the good one re-do the work of the others. I felt that I could have done better than these high-dollar “professional technical writers”. They showed samples during the interview process, but for some reason could not match that level of writing for me.

Maybe we can help Peedub brainstorm so that he can give more specific direction to the professional when the time comes.

Jeruba's avatar

You are absolutely right, @JohnRobert, and it is the same problem with many other kinds of professionals, from your eye doctor or veterinarian to your tax accountant. You are at the mercy of the person’s own self-assessment unless you know his reputation. And the person who exhibits the greatest confidence in his skills may not be the one who ought to. It may come down to your intuition and your sense of whether you want to work with the person.

Many a reasonably good writer has been misdirected, damaged, or traumatized by a bad editing experience. People hire themselves out as writers, too, who have no business saying they can write. You can tell some things by asking questions (including whether the writer’s work has been edited and how the writer feels about working with an editor). But it is really hard to assess a sample unless you can take the time to read it carefully, and it is also pointless unless you know for sure that the work is original—and you are a qualified judge.

If I show you a heavily edited piece, maybe you can see my editing style. But a real editor knows when to do a light edit and touch only what needs to be touched. Does that mean it took less time or was an easier job than the heavy markup? Not at all. But it will be harder for you to evaluate my work. Unfortunately for the hiring process, it is the handling of the best writing, not the poorest, that really shows an editor’s art.

I am a rigorous interviewer of both writers and editors, and I wouldn’t hire either without some kind of on-the-spot test. For one thing, I always pose a tough grammar question and ask the candidate to think aloud while answering it. I care less about the correct answer (which can be taught) than about the thought process.

Editors have strengths and areas of mediocrity and blind spots just like writers. I would doubt the capability of an editor who does not speak well. But it is also true that the person who most needs an editor may be the least qualified to judge an editor’s ability.

JohnRobert's avatar

Jeruba, Thank you for the thoughtful insight. Peedub is in good hands, even if it’s only for a “once over”.

From now on, I’m really going to watch my spelling, now that I know you are here:)

Jeruba's avatar

No, no, @JR, please, relax. There’s already an established spelling patrol on Fluther, and I’m not here in a professional capacity. My own posts are full of errors. I just happened to see a question that appealed to the sum of my career experience, so I could not pass over it without responding.

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