Why use an editor?

Written words communicate a lot about you and about your business.

Editing ensures you and your work are presented as professionally as they can be. A text that has been edited will shine with clear ideas and logical flow; it will be a vehicle to communicate effectively with your audience. An unedited text can trip your audience up, preventing them from understanding your message. It can reflect badly on your credibility.

I offer editing and proofreading services, particularly of corporate and academic material. Contact me to discuss your editing needs.

There are different levels of editing:

Substantive editing (also called ‘structural editing’) is making sure that the structure of a document is clear and appropriate to its purpose and audience and that readers find the text logical to follow. It ensures that all the content that is promised is delivered and that the document as a whole makes sense.A table of contents provides a good indication of the structure of a document, and from a TOC it can be easy to identify missing information or areas that have been treated at too great or too low a level of detail.

This stage of editing should happen early in the development of a text because problems identified here will require a lot of work to solve, such as further research and writing. Once all the content is provided it may still be necessary to move significant amounts of text around and then massage them to fit their new place in the text.

Different genres will also require different structures. For example, a media release will have the most newsworthy information closest to the top of the piece and the background closer to the bottom, whereas an essay will provide some background first in order to develop an argument or conclusion.

Copyediting is what most people think of when they say they would like their document edited. This is the stage of finding and fixing problems in spelling, grammar, infelicities and clunkiness of a document. It is checking that each sentence reads smoothly and that the document is internally consistent.

It can vary significantly depending on the document; sometimes only a few typos need to be fixed and one or two sentences tightened up to make them easier for the reader to understand. Usually, however, more work is required.

Some copyediting tasks are:

  • changing passive structures to active
  • removing idiom or slang
  • correcting verb agreement
  • providing more appropriate words (e.g. removing weasel words and using gender-inclusive language)
  • checking for consistent use of specialist terms

Proofreading is the final stage: ensuring that a text is ready to publish. This may mean checking on a printer’s proof that all previous changes have been made, checking that the formatting and page layout are correct, and checking that each character is correct.

Proofreading is:

  • checking proofs at all production stages to ensure all changes have been entered
  • making sure that all illustrations, boxes and other elements of the document are correctly placed
  • checking that house style has been applied consistently
  • correcting any errors in spelling and grammar that remain in the text
  • checking cross-references are correct
  • checking running heads
  • checking preliminary matter
  • marking queries, but not making changes of fact or against house style

Proofreading is what happens after a document has been typeset; copyediting is what happens before.

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