Attempt to quantify the value of editing

In my Thursday post about the layers of editing at BusinessWeek, I mentioned working with a colleague on one problematic sentence in an article about India. It didn’t take long for our colleague in India, Mehul Srivastava, to e-mail me: “Just out of curiosity - which sentence gave you so much angst yesterday?”

He then proceeds to calculate the value of the time that two editors were fine-tuning his story. Guesstimating our salaries and perks, he figures an editing hour costs about $60. So if two of us spend a half hour on a few last details of his story, the mag spends an additional $60 for quality.

That’s why I am curious about which sentence you are talking about. If it did really help the story, then $60 sounds like a steal to me. If it didn’t, then yes, that’s $60 wasted…

To be fair, sometimes this late editing can catch a potentially troublesome sentence and, perhaps, save the magazine a libel suit. But in Mehol’s story, I felt that the last changes were a bit less important. My test: If two editors can’t decide which sentence works better, either one of them will do. (Or, heaven forbid, maybe they should come up with a third.)

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