Professional writers and authors don’t work alone.
They almost always rely on early readers, editors and proofreaders who turn their manuscripts into polished products.
But what if you’re a new writer or you haven’t worked with an editor before? When I was starting out writing online, I thought I could skip working with an editor.
It’s true, you can publish articles, stories and even books without one, but it’s not always a good idea.
Consider the last article or story you wrote.
You probably spent hours getting the messaging right, but how many more did it take to check for typos and grammar mistakes?
For most writers, diminishing returns sets in when they spend hours pouring over the result, searching for errors and typos.
Having an editor means you can work on another project or book while he or she reviews your manuscript or early draft. Their feedback can also teach you valuable lessons about the craft of writing.
What to expect from your editor
Typically, a developmental editor fixes the structure of a document, report or book.
A copy editor revises sentences and paragraphs for tone and clarity.
A proofreader addresses spelling mistakes and grammar errors such as misplaced apostrophes. Depending on your writing skills, you could employ the services of all three or just one.
I found my editor through my email list, but many services, including Reedsy, Kibin, and Papertrue can help. I’ve used all three for different projects.
Reedsy is useful if you’re writing a book, Kibin for academic works and Papertrue for articles.
Papertrue CEO Neha Vaidya told me up to 10% of PaperTrue’s clients “need their marketing material, their annual reports, their business proposals, their websites proofread, corrected for tone, for clarity.”
A professional editor should return your marketing collateral or web copy marked up with amends that don’t change the intention of the piece. In other words, research shouldn’t go to waste.
“One of our commandments for our editors is ‘Thou shall not change the meaning of a sentence,’” says Vaidya.
“We return a clean file where we have implemented all the changes, and it has some comments in it. And that is a tracked file, which shows you all the changes that we have made. And we leave it up to you to either accept or reject some changes.”
While writing a book this past year, I spent hours poring over The Chicago Manual of Style.
Looking back, this wasn’t a great use of time.
Even if you’re not writing a book, perhaps you have facts requiring citations or graphics that must be formatted correctly. Although not fun, consistency demonstrates professionalism.
Again, you can shave hours off the workday by hiring someone who understands how to cite and reference sources correctly.
“Even if you’re great at English, you know how to write well, you know how to format…you will always need a second pair of eyes,” says Vaidya. “You could have missed out on something. We’re human beings, after all.”
Believe me, I’ve made more than my fair share of writing mistakes over the years.
It’s easy to fix a grammar mistake or typo, but it’s much harder to fix a developmental issue that a professional editor will quickly spot.
Every writer needs advice from time to time, and an editor is the best place to get it.