by Megan Gerig

Newbie, amateur, unprofessional, inexperienced—these are words that no editor, whether just starting out or with twenty years of experience, ever wants to hear. However, many editors find that they are called these particular adjectives whenever they ask a question. This causes a lot of editors to fear that asking questions will cause them to be dismissed as inexperienced and unprofessional, when in fact, asking questions will enable them to grow in their professional career.

To avoid being called unprofessional, keep these three tips in mind when asking your questions:

1. Google your question first.
We live in an age where a simple search can produce millions of results. While sifting through these results may seem daunting, looking for the answer to your question on your own before jumping to ask a more experienced editor will show that you are a professional and willing to put in the work as an editor.

2. Write clearly.
If you are unable to find the answer to your question on your own, then don’t hesitate to ask a more experienced editor to help! However, when you pose your question, make sure you are clear in your request. Are you looking for resources the other editor might have to help? Are you looking for the editor to just answer your question? Are you wanting to start a discussion? Make sure you are upfront about what you are asking to ensure you receive the best answer to your question.

3. Be respectful.
Clarity isn’t the only important part of asking a question. It’s also essential to be as concise as possible. Editors are very busy people! The other editor may not have time to read an entire 500-word essay as you explain every facet of the history of your question. Give the editor only the information they need to understand your question, ask it, then don’t rush them for an answer.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions as that is how you grow as an editor, but make sure you’ve done your research and are respectful of the other editor when you ask your question.

As a member of the Christian PEN, you will receive access to the PEN Loop—a priceless email resource for finding friendly and encouraging answers to your questions, no matter how basic you think your question is. I highly recommend purchasing a membership to the PEN as this email chain alone will pay back the membership price five times over.

Megan Gerig has been known as the hermit in Spare Oom to her family. She prefers reading to socializing, and by middle school, even the librarian had difficulty recommending a book she hadn’t read. Besides reading and writing, Megan enjoys baking muffins (and licking the bowl), gardening, and evening walks. She lives in a cottage in the midst of a busy city with her librarian husband and book-devouring son and is a freelance writer and editor at