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writing v editingMost of us writers know that writing and editing have a lot in common. For one thing, they both need each other. You can’t write, or write well, without editing, and you can’t edit without a piece of writing. For another, they both involve words, grammar, mechanics, communication, headwork—and the list goes on.

But writing and editing are actually very different disciplines, and understanding those differences can go a long way in making you better at either—or both. Check out these five, and learn what skills you need to use for each process. You might even discover which one you’re best suited for.

Writing is about creating; editing is mending.

Writers are creators of stories. They know how to tell a tale or put an idea into readable form. A thoughtful, creative mind is a quality of a good writer. Editors are fixers. They’re good at cutting, pasting, adding, revising, restructuring, and rewording.

Writing requires finding research; editing corroborates it.

While writers must find resources to back up their facts, editors do the fact-checking. They need to verify that the writer is telling the truth. Fact-checking is a good skill to have as a writer, but it’s essential for an editor.

Writing uses the heart; editing relies on the head.

Writers are a passionate bunch. They write with heart, soul, and all the senses. Editors make sure the writing isn’t overly emotional, flowery, or opinionated and that it appeals to the intended audience. Editors must be mindful and objective.

Writing takes reading; editing takes resourcefulness.

Most good writers are avid readers. Reading makes writers better at their craft. Editors benefit from reading, but they must be good at using resources even more. Knowing how to make something read better by consulting style guides is key for editors.

Writing can’t be interrupted; editing can.

Writing is something you need hours of quality, uninterrupted time to do. Editing can be done in pieces—a paragraph or page at a time. It helps to have continuity when editing; writing, on the other hand, depends on it.

Writing and editing go hand-in-hand, but they’re not the same thing. Even though many writers are editors and vice versa, each requires a different set of skills. Know what it takes to do either job and learn how to become better at what you do best.

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thesaurus pageIf you don’t already own a good thesaurus, now’s the time to invest in one. A thesaurus isn’t just a useful writing tool; it can turn out to be one of your most valuable resources and one you’ll find hard to live without. I like to compare a thesaurus to a best friend. Here’s why:

It makes you better. The purpose of a thesaurus is to help you discover the right word choice. No two words are exactly the same; synonyms have similar meanings but different connotations. Sometimes, a dictionary is necessary to use alongside a thesaurus to help you determine the best word fit. But a thesaurus is the tool that helps you choose exactly which word you mean to use so that your message is accurately and clearly conveyed.

It’s there for you every day. And, trust me, you’ll refer to it every day. A thesaurus is by your side as you write, there at every minute to advise you. It’s accessible, convenient, easy to follow, reliable, and full of good ideas…just like a best friend.

You’ll wish you had two. The only thing better than one best friend is two best friends. Thesauruses are no different. I have a large hardcover thesaurus and a smaller, paperback one. They are completely different in design and format, but they both serve me well. When one thesaurus doesn’t come through, the other invariably does.

It’ll help you out of tricky situations. When you’re stuck, do you call on your best friend? In writing, a thesaurus serves the same function. Often, we writers get stuck mid-sentence, hung up on trying to find that perfect word. Thesauruses can whisk you out of a roadblock and get you back on track. You may not know right away what word you’re looking for, but one word leads to another and another, until finally, there it is—the word!—dancing on the page, luring you back to work.

It’s different from the others. Though full of words, like a style guide or a dictionary or a usage manual, a thesaurus isn’t one of them at all. It holds a unique place in a writer’s life. It’s a gift of just words—a stockpile of vocabulary, neatly arranged, simple yet not superficial, and unlike any other resource of its kind.

So, like a best friend, a good thesaurus is indispensable…and well worth the time and effort it takes to find a good one. Be sure to research thesauruses thoroughly before investing in one. Each thesaurus has different features from the others. If, for example, you prefer an all-in-one dictionary and thesaurus book, take a look at Merriam Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus. Want your thesaurus to include handy usage notes and real-life sample sentences? Check out the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. For a classic, comprehensive thesaurus, you might consider Roget’s International Thesaurus.

Of course, you can always refer to an online thesaurus, such as Thesaurus.com; however, I find that having a physical book to page through makes my job of finding that perfect word easier, handier, and—most importantly—more fruitful.