A large part of being an editor is the ability to track down and verify information. It’s a mental muscle that you must flex often to keep it in shape. For example, what is the pluperfect tense? Do you know why and when to use it?
You could ask a mentor or members of an online group for the answers. But in searching reference works and online resources first, you’ll hone your research skills, so you’ll always be able to find some answers even if there are no colleagues to consult. And you’ll be more likely to remember answers if you put in work to find them than if you are given the information.
If you look for answers yourself before asking others, you’ll also decrease the chances that colleagues will feel that they’re being used as information-providing machines. Yes, our profession is full of people who like to help others, but knowledge is often hard won, and few want to give away the results of their fact-finding efforts all the time.
When you’ve done the research and still need help from colleagues, there are good ways to get it that will not only build healthy work relationships but also show your gratitude.
Getting spoon-fed diminishes your professional reputation. Think about it: Would you hire or contract with an editor who doesn’t know where to find and verify information? I wouldn’t, and I know many experienced editors who feel the same way.
When editors are first starting out, they don’t have all the answers, but the desire to learn it all quickly leads them to want it now, now, now. I have felt the same way. Professional growth is a slow journey, though, not a quick road trip. It’s the learning process, not the instant acquisition of knowledge, that builds your skills and value.
Finally, how sure are you that the colleagues you’re asking have the correct answers for your situation? Do you know whether they have consulted respected resources, or might they sometimes be providing just opinions or preferences? Take a run through proven resources first before you ask around, so that you can base your editorial and business decisions on something solid.
Put down the spoon. Get out your intellectual pickax and dig up knowledge yourself. You’ll be a better editor for doing so.