‘What does an editor do, exactly?’
I’m often asked what my role as an editor involves, and why anybody with a reasonable standard of language proficiency would need to use one.
Because we understand different things by the term ‘edit’ in various areas of publishing, I thought it would be useful to outline them here. My job as a freelance editor involves working at three levels.
1. Substantive editing
This is a big-picture edit. I will look at the structure of your document, its suitability for your audience, overall clarity and completeness, and assess whether your writing style is the best one for engaging your readers. A substantive edit can also involve checking copyright issues, such as whether permission is needed to use quotes and images. A substantive edit can also identify other possible legal issues, such as defamation.
2. Copy editing
At the copy editing stage, I focus on the mechanics of the writing. I take a more detailed look at clarity, completeness and style. I work to make sure the piece is consistent in its use of spelling, punctuation, headings, captions, tables and other features. I check sentence structure, spelling, headings, hyperlinks, continuity and all the inner workings of a piece of writing. I make sure that your document is consistent with your organisation’s house style as set out in your editorial style guide. (If you don’t have one, I can create a style guide for you to use.)
We’ve all seen those (sometimes cringeworthy) errors in final documents. When you have read something many times over, it’s hard to see them. Proofreading is a final read-through for typos, spelling and punctuation errors, style mistakes, working links, sensible page breaks and the like. Sometimes the final version is checked against an earlier version. A thorough proofread weeds out any errors so that they don’t make it into the final version of a print or online document.
You may need all three levels of edit, or just one or two.
Contact me about your structural editing, copy editing and proofreading needs.