Why Hire an Editor?
Every author needs an editor—a trained outside eye to help ensure that your words accurately, and perhaps even elegantly, convey your ideas to your readers in a format that helps them engage with your content. Your editor advocates for both you and your readers. As an author, you are almost by definition too close to your work, especially if you have spent a lot of time on your project. You know what you want to say and have read your text so many times that you may fail to notice or correct problems an experienced editor is likely to catch.
An editor can help you with issues such as these:
Poor organization. An editor can suggest ways to restructure your text to make it more cohesive and powerful.
Lack of clarity. An editor can identify wording that may be confusing or ambiguous to your readers or that assumes knowledge your readers may not have.
Repetition. Do you discuss the same idea, in nearly identical wording, in various parts of the work? Repetition is a common error and one that’s particularly difficult for you to spot in your own work.
Internal contradictions. Do you say in your introduction that you’ll address six topics but then cover only five of them in your text? Do you seem to support one argument at the beginning of the work but another one later on? An editor can point out where your details aren’t consistent.
Failure to follow guidelines. Sometimes you may struggle to adhere to length limits, master unfamiliar citation and bibliography formats, or follow the required style—especially under time pressure. An editor can help you meet these requirements.
Spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage errors. Electronic spelling and grammar checkers are helpful, but they miss many errors. An editor can fix your mistakes and, if you want, explain why they are wrong.
What Do Various Types of Editors Do?
A developmental editor works closely with the author or publisher to develop an idea or turn an early version of a manuscript into a text that’s ready for publication. This type of editor attends to the organization, scope, content, and tone of the manuscript.
A substantive editor, sometimes called a content editor, focuses on making content suggestions and significant revisions that go beyond the kinds of edits a copy editor would make. A substantive editor who specializes in one or more technical areas may be called a technical editor.
A technical editor helps writers clearly and accurately communicate information in print and electronic texts as diverse as consumer instruction manuals, software and engineering documentation, scientific and medical papers, and legal and business documents. A technical editor is familiar with both the specialized language of the subject matter and the specialized format of the text.
A copy editor corrects errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and syntax. A copy editor also ensures consistency in style, details and facts, voice, and format; revises awkward sentences; smooths transitions; and verifies cross-references. She or he makes sure your text, citations, and bibliography meet the style requirements of your discipline, institution, and publisher. A copy editor also points out material that is unclear or potentially offensive to readers.
A proofreader provides editorial quality control, checking for typos, bad line or page breaks, heading placement, and the overall appearance of the text. A proofreader also ensures that each page conforms to design and layout specifications. Depending on the project, a proofreader may provide a final check for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors and even for awkward wording and style inconsistencies.
A project editor manages the workflow of an entire book or even series. This type of editor is often responsible for hiring and supervising editorial specialists (writers, editors, proofreaders, and indexers), as well as design specialists (graphic designers, web designers, photo editors and researchers, and illustrators). The project editor may also work with a publisher’s permissions, marketing, sales, and production departments and is usually responsible for a project’s budget and schedule.
A manuscript evaluator reviews a manuscript and produces a detailed written assessment—a guide to improving the work—that covers such issues as content, clarity, writing style, and tone. He or she may also make recommendations about getting the manuscript published.
Fact Checker or Researcher
A fact checker or researcher verifies the accuracy of a manuscript’s content.
An indexer organizes information so that it’s easy for readers to find, creating back-of-the-book indexes for nonfiction print books, embedded (tagged) indexes for nonfiction electronic books, keywords in metadata for web pages and online help, and taxonomies to categorize information in databases and content management systems.
In addition to rendering text from one language into another, a translator may offer copyediting or substantive editing services.
A writing coach supports the writer in working through difficult or complicated processes such as managing multiple deadlines and relationships, understanding and responding to academic expectations, or overcoming writer’s block or other obstacles. A writing coach may also function as the writer’s developmental or substantive editor.
Do You Need More than One Type of Editor?
Most editors specialize in two or three types of editing and do not address every kind of writing issue—so it’s a good idea to decide which kind of help you need the most. Or, if you have the budget, consider working with more than one editor. For example, you might select a developmental editor to help with major issues of organization, clarity, presentation, and research focus and then a copy editor to polish the final text.
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