Hiring an Editor Gives Authors Bragging Writes (Pun Intended)
As a freelance writer and former journalist, I’ve written more than a thousand articles—and been edited more than a thousand times. Now I edit books full time, and I write part time—and even though I’m an editor, I have two professional editors of my own. Why would an editor have her own editors?
- Because I love my writing, the charming turn of phrase, the amazing simile that came out of nowhere (which I first wrote as know where. I’m thankful I caught that before turning this post in!).
- Because I cannot maintain objectivity about my own words.
- Because what I think is perfect, another can spot the flaws and inconsistencies immediately.
- Because many times, even though I know the difference, I write hoard rather than horde and affect when I mean effect.
- Because when I read my writing, I read it as I meant to write it, not what it actually says.
I’m no different than any other writer, so I hire professional editors to make sure I look good and sound great. And as an editor, I practice what I preach. I’ve set a standard for myself—I will not publish without first being edited. The first question I ask when a blogger approaches me about writing a guest blog post is, “Will my article be edited?” If not, either I won’t write the post, or I’ll pay my own editor to edit it. (rem: yes, I edited it.)
Editors bring value to a writer’s words beyond what a writer can accomplish on his or her own. When writers hire professional editors, they are no longer just writers—they become authors who make sure they deliver the highest-quality reading experience.
Many of us have read books (and articles and blogs) with little to no editing. Even a tense and well-plotted story line gets buried beneath poor sentence structure, errors, lack of continuity, unfamiliar style, repetitive words and phrases, and slow pacing.
Writers who care about their readers’ expectations hire professional editors, even if it means saving money for months to pay editorial fees.
What do I mean by a professional editor? I mean someone who’s skilled in the use of style manuals; has developed methods to catch errors and other inconsistencies in authors’ texts (which a sample edit will reveal); has a published portfolio of editing projects; has multiple author testimonials; and whose income depends, in large part, on editing. (Yes, some editors are just starting out and aren’t as skilled as established editors. Most are up front [as they should be] about this, and oftentimes they work for discounted rates in order to build their businesses and establish their portfolios.)
If you want to brag about your book, article, or blog post, hire an editor to increase the value of your product. Here’s what editors do, in part:
- Correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. An editor will use a main dictionary and backup dictionaries to ensure accurate and consistent spelling. And editors are especially alert for homophones and typos, which plague all writers.
- Apply style guides. The publishing industry applies certain style guides to writing projects. For example, book publishers usually follow the Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS) and Merriam-Webster. Newspapers and magazines typically use the Associated Press Stylebook and Webster’s New World Dictionary. Christian publications often follow the Christian Writers Manual of Style. A professional editor knows which style guide to apply to your project—and knows when to make an exception to the style guide too.
What’s an example of style? Numbers. CMoS spells out numbers below one hundred (AP spells out numbers below ten). CMoS prefers italics for emphasis and book titles (AP uses no italics, and puts quotation marks around books). For hyphens, CMoS (and AP too, for the most part) prefers compound adjectives be hyphenated before a noun (the bluish-green dress) but not after (the dress was bluish green), in most cases. The CMoS hyphenation guide is eight pages long. My advice to authors regarding hyphenating words? Hyphenate where you think it works, and let your editor take it from there.
Applying the proper style guide helps keep your writing consistent with publishing-industry standards and means it will look familiar to readers, which is vital to a book’s or an article’s success. If a reader has to wonder why periods and commas are outside the quotation marks in your book but not in any other books they read, that’s a signal to them the book wasn’t edited.
- Offer rewording and restructuring options. When the true intent of a sentence or paragraph is lost in awkward phrasing, an editor will offer suggestions for clarity, keeping in mind the author’s voice and writing style.
- Note story inconsistencies. It takes vigilance and sharp-eyed attention to the story to note that on page 7 (with CMoS style, page numbers are typically numerals) a cabin in the woods in Washington state is the same cabin mentioned on page 250—but is now in Oregon on the coast. Or a story takes place in a year in which smartphones weren’t used yet, but characters are busy swiping cell phone screens and asking Siri for directions.
- Separate the wheat from the chaff. An editor spots unnecessary redundancies in wording and the story, and recommends deleting these elements to allow the story and writing to shine through.
- Point out the gems. An editor will comment on writing and story strengths so that an author can clearly see what he or she is doing well, which helps bring focus to the revision process and to future writing projects.
What author doesn’t want the privilege of bragging about his or her writing? Hiring a professional editor builds authors’ confidence by making them look and sound their best. So if you’re writing a book or article or blog post, reach out to a trusted writing friend or adviser for a referral to a professional editor—and then start bragging about hiring one.
By the way, this article was edited using CMoS, with a little AP exception. Can you spot the exception (it’s minor)?
Dori Harrell edits full time, and as an editor, she releases more than twenty-five books annually. Her client list includes indie authors, best-selling writers, and publishers. An award-winning writer, she’s published more than 1,000 articles between her journalism career and freelance writing. She can be contacted at www.doriharrell.wix.com/breakoutediting or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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