Devil Mountain Views Home Page
January/February 2005 | Home

Volunteer Editing and Writing


by Dara Golden
DMV Contributing Editor

Dara Golden is the former Interim Editor of Connection, the Silicon Valley Chapter’s newsletter.


This is the first article in a two-part series. The first article focuses on editing volunteer newsletters, while the second aritcle focuses on writing for volunteer newsletters.

Motivating Volunteer Writers

How is editing a newsletter different from editing co-workers’ documents? First, the writers are volunteers. They can quit writing for you at any time. Second, often you never meet the writers face-to-face and interact only by email.

How to keep writers wanting to write:

  1. Edit politely. While you may need to be brutally honest in your editing, you do not need to be brutal. Asking “I’m reading this as X, but I don’t think that was your intent. Does Y sound better?” is much nicer than “Awkward, rewrite!”
  2. Edit, don’t rewrite. One responsibility as editor is to let the voice of the author come through, not your own voice, tone, or writing style.
  3. Educate, don’t lecture. If you have a style guide in place and the author hasn’t followed it, suggest the author review the style guide for future submissions. Additionally, if the author requires some basic grammar assistance, don’t chide, but make helpful suggestions.
  4. Make review copies available. If you’ve extensively edited an article, let the author see it before it is published. Edits can misstate the author’s point, although it may not seem that way to you.
  5. Remember that English may be a second language or the writer may be inexperienced. Do not get frustrated with the author. Sometimes the best articles come from less skilled writers who just need help expressing themselves.
  6. Work with the authors. Treat them as you’d like to be treated. You depend upon them for input and ideas. Do treat them professionally.
  7. Help and advise when necessary with new writers. There are times when a writer needs handholding. It might be the first article they’ve written, or the topic may be more extensive than they anticipated. Check in with them and ask how it’s going, and offer help if wanted. It also never hurts to check in with established writers and ask how it’s going.
  8. Maintain contact. When the newsletter is published, let the authors know. Many authors want to read what they’ve written and tell their friends, co-workers, and family. That brings more readers to your site (if online) or more potential long-term readers (if in print). Also, if there is a request for a reprint, let the author know. Tell the writers you appreciated them writing for you and, when truthful, say you’d welcome working with them again.

Working Together

Volunteer writers have particular ideas about their articles. You do not want to publish blank pages; a writer does not want an article to be changed so much that it is no longer recognizable as his or her work. As an editor, you want to publish the best possible newsletter, but not at the expense of alienating the people who provide the content.Top of page



DMV Home | EBSTC | STC | Contact Us

Accentuate the Positive; Eliminate the Negative | Volunteer Editing and Writing | Literacy Project Update
New Year's Resolutions for Writers
| Director's Report | Membership Survey Results | Editor's Message | President's Message
Meeting Information
| Meeting Report | New Members
| Society News | Employment News | Educational News | Book Review
Archives | About DMV | Sponsors