The Craft of Editing

Some writers think of editing as a necessary evil they have to deal with if they want to sell their writing. Others embrace working with their editors because they’ve had good experiences with editors improving the writing.

So what’s the difference? If an editor changes your writing to reflect the editor’s viewpoint or style preference, that’s not a good thing. If an editor comes to your writing with the reader in mind, you’ve got the basis for a good editing experience.

But editing is more than that. Editing also entails following standards–Chicago Manual of Style for books, Associated Press Stylebook for periodicals, and APA (American Psychological Association) for most academic work (although there are other manuals for academic work as well).

When you hire an editor, make sure you check that the editor you hire knows which manual to use and uses the correct one in editing your work. Anyone can say he/she is an editor. In fact, many writers hire English teachers/professors as editors. This may or may not be a good practice, depending on the teacher’s familiarity with when to use which manual. Just because someone knows a verb from a preposition doesn’t make that person an editor–it makes them knowledgeable in that one part of the craft of editing.

You also want to be clear about what type of editor you’re hiring. If you want grammar and punctuation edited, you’ll want to hire a copy editor. If you want content and clarity edited as well, you’ll want to hire a content editor. If you simply want someone to look for typos and check spelling, you’ll want to hire a proofreader.

All of these are part of the craft of editing. But, just as you don’t go to a pediatrician for cardiac care in the elderly, you don’t want to hire the wrong editing expert.

Connecting with an editor you can work with and who respects your voice can make or break your writing career. Whether you’re looking for someone to slash and burn your text down to bare bones (technical writers may be looking for this type of help) or creating fiction that requires an eye for content and timing and detail, you can find the right editor for you.

Happy writing!

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