The Editing Process: How to Get Started
When we speak of “editing” a manuscript, people generally have in mind copy or line editing. That concerns a variety of elements frequently labeled “grammar,” but in fact includes punctuation, capitalization, syntax and style matters.
Large publishers offer several other types of editing but independent editors also provide them on a freelance basis. At The Bay Area Editors’ Forum, you can learn about the different types of editing and what each entails with definitions of various editorial services.
To get an idea of what some of these editing services cost, consult the Editorial Freelancers Association and its rates. However, charges can vary considerably depending on the job and the editor, location, special needs and the timeline for the work.
A good description of copyediting is Scott Berkun’s “What copyeditors do.” Take time to read through the comments and Berkun’s responses at the end.
If an author decides that professional services are beyond the budget, maybe you can swap editing work with another writer. Getting a different pair of eyes to review your writing is important. When you read what you’ve written, you know what it means. Unfortunately, your meaning may not be evident to others who aren’t privy to the inner workings of your mind.
Any list of writing mistakes is endless. Some, like typos, spelling errors, repeated words, and missing punctuation marks are mechanical. Others can be grammar goofs like mismatched subjects and verbs. Most vexing are the logical issues involving homonyms (disk/disc, you’re/your) and words you may have heard but not seen spelled. Deeper mistakes include point of view (head hopping), timelines, characterization, pacing, internal consistency in story and similar analytic matters.
What to work on first is a personal choice. I suggest you start with the deeper problems (they may require a rewrite), then tackle the common mistakes we all make. Some writers and editors use electronic tools like MS Word’s grammar and spell check or Grammarly’s automated proofreader, which checks for over 250 kinds of grammatical errors. Even Google can help check individual words (although at a terribly slow pace). Professional editors invest in programs that comb an entire manuscript electronically to find errors and make corrections.
Most people would call my final pass through a manuscript (there may be up to five!) “proofreading.” This is when I do the final polishing of the prose, checking little details according to whichever style guide applies to that type of writing. The more well known ones include Chicago, Modern Language Association, New York Times, Associated Press, American Psychological Association and American Medical Association. Find more information on style at the venerable Purdue OWL.
No matter how you go about the editing process, make sure you’re consistent and thorough. No one’s writing is perfect the first time, so edit carefully!
About the author Georganna Hancock finds joy in helping other writers along the path to success. She’s a prolific tweeter @GLHancock who blogged for years and offers editorial services at A Writer’s Edge. She reviews books for writers at Blogcritics and publishes on Amazon.