Editors must consider and balance the feelings of two groups of people when suggesting language changes: firstly, they must consider how the reader will react to the language of the original manuscript; and secondly, they must consider how the author will respond to the suggested edits.
Remember that a manuscript is the result of a writer’s blood, sweat, and tears. Unless they’re lucky to be full-time writers, authors are usually people working a nine-to-five job and have to write during their lunch breaks or stay up late into the night writing after their children have gone to bed. They’ve sacrificed their energy, time, and social life to write a book, and if a query is not handled well, they could see it as an attack on them and not as constructive feedback.
What tone to use when writing a letter to an author or making queries on their manuscript is often one of the most crucial yet most challenging parts of an editor’s job. There are many factors to consider: Where are you at in the editing process? Are you speaking to the author directly, or are you addressing a senior editor? Is this the author’s first novel, or are they more experienced? With so many factors to juggle and so many tiny nuances, it’s no surprise that this is the area that trips up most novice (and sometimes more senior) editors.