Advice from An Editor
In upcoming posts in this series, I will share actual advice which I, as an editor, have given to some of my writing clients. I trust this advice will be useful to you as a writer, and that it will also give you a better idea of the kind of help you can ask your editor to provide for you.
In this introductory post, I will review the main types of editing–substantive/structural, stylistic, copy editing, fact-checking, and proofreading–and then the kinds of editors you can ask to help you make your writing the best it can be–professional editors, beta readers, writers group critiquers, and of course yourself as a self-editor.
What Kind of Editing Do You Need?
When people hear the word “editor,” they often think of someone who finds and corrects spelling, punctuation, grammar, and capitalization. Actually, that’s just a small part of the editing process, and it mostly happens toward the end, when the other important aspects of editing are completed. What are those aspects, and in what order are they usually done?
1. Substantive or structural editing reorganizes a manuscript and makes it more clear and concise. If a story or article is disorganized, a substantive edit could organize it around important themes or sub-topics, or perhaps a chronological or other order. This edit will also remove parts which are not important, tighten up rambling writing, and find holes where important information is missing.
2. Stylistic editing makes meaning clearer, eliminates jargon, improves the flow, and makes language smoother. Stylistic editing may also include making the reading level more suitable, or creating better tables and charts.
3. Copy editing is editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation and other mechanics of style. It also checks that facts are consistent, and may include design elements such as placement of art. It looks for consistency of Canadian (or British, American, etc.) spelling, sets up research citations correctly, edits captions, and edits cover copy and information on the bibliographic page.
4. Fact or reference checking ensures facts are accurate, and that the writer has given credit to the correct sources of quotations.
5. Proofreading takes place after all the other editing has been done. If the manuscript has already gone to the typesetter, the proofreading will include the back and front covers, pictures, title page, table of contents, and more. Proofreading is a final check for any remaining errors. If errors are minor, the proofreader will make changes, or will send a list of needed changes to the typesetter. If many errors are found, it needs to go back to the writer for improvement.
Who Can You Ask to Help Edit Your Manuscript?
Your editing process, to be most successful, will include help from several people.
First, of course, is you, the author. As you write, you will self-edit. Some authors first write their manuscript, then go back and self-edit, while other writers self-edit as they write.
When you have self-edited as well as you can, you will usually hire a professional editor to go through your work and find more ways to improve it (see the section above to review the different levels of editing). This may be one person, or it may be a team of editors, depending on how complex your project is. Almost certainly, your editor(s) will send your manuscript back to you so you can use the suggestions to improve your writing. This back and forth process, called drafts, may happen several times.
After your second or third drafts, you may also have beta readers read the manuscript and give you feedback. These readers may be friends or other writers; they aren’t usually paid, but you’ll want to thank them and perhaps give them a gift, and a copy of the book when it’s finished. If you belong to a group of writers, you can ask them to critique bits and pieces of your writing as you work on your manuscript.
Finally, when your manuscript is ready for publishing, you will want to have a proofreader go over it once more. While your editor could do this, it is wise to hire a proofreading specialist who can read it with a “fresh set of eyes” to catch errors that others have missed.
What Kind of Advice Can Your Editor Provide?
In the following series of posts, I will share actual pieces of advice that I, as an editor, have given to my clients. I hope you will be able to apply this advice to your own writing and self-editing. And I hope it will also give you ideas about the kinds of things you can ask your editor(s), critiquers, and beta readers to look for as they read your manuscript. This will help your editing team to work effectively together to provide a great final product.
By the way…
Don’t forget to check out other helpful articles on editing I have written for you. Go to the page “Writing and Editing Articles” for links to lots more useful information.
Posts in this series, “Advice From an Editor,” include: