I don’t know about you, but I’m a member of a fair few groups on Facebook, I live on Twitter and I roam the halls of LinkedIn.
When I’m taking a break from work I have a little mooch here and there, and sometimes I see people making comments that make me sad.
Sometimes it’s just people being bolshy.
Sometimes it’s people who genuinely don’t know what copy editors do.
And sometimes I see comments by people who’ve been dealt with harshly or who’ve been well and truly scammed.
Does any of this sound familiar?
‘Don’t bother with a copy editor, you can do that yourself.’
‘I got my friend next door to edit for me, they used to be a teacher.’
‘I don’t need a copy editor, I’ve got a degree in English.’
‘I won’t use an editor again – my manuscript was covered in corrections.’
‘That editor I hired was harsh, I’m obviously rubbish, it’s really put me off writing.’
‘I can’t afford an editor. Why pay the prices when I can hire one for half the price on a freelancers for hire site?’
‘That editor I hired hardly changed anything.’
‘The editor sent my document back and said they can’t work on it further until I make changes. Isn’t that what I’m paying them for?’
‘The editor seemed ok, but wanted to alter my work beyond recognition.’
‘I just didn’t feel comfortable with the edit and the editor. I’m never doing that again.’
Copy editors see (and hear) these words all the time. So perhaps it’s time to dispel a few myths?
Sure you can. But that doesn’t mean you’ll do it right.
Being a copy editor is a highly skilled, professional occupation. We have the training, the experience and expertise to whip your writing into shape. We use the right style guides, the right dictionaries and the right resources to help you make the most of your writing.
By hiring the right copy editor, you can free up your time and let us do the polishing.
That’s great. But have they trained as a copy editor?
A copy editor wouldn’t presume to teach English in a school unless they’d trained as a teacher. Grammar is only part of a copy editor’s job – we understand the nuances of writing in a variety of disciplines and understand that not all writing is the same. We keep the author’s voice rather than stick rigidly to ‘rules’ and do a whole lot more.
Aaah, but an English degree won’t usually teach you about copy editing. Even though you’re good with grammar and spelling, there is so much more to copy editing. Added to the fact that writers are too close to their writing to copy edit it themselves, you’re much better off hiring a professional.
Having your work edited is scary. Believe me I know, I’ve seen it from both sides.
But your editor will only change what’s needed according to your brief or your needs. The best thing to do is leave the manuscript for a few days then read it through and see what’s what. It’s rare for an editor to track ALL their changes (there are some things most clients don’t want to see), but sometimes the client either asks to see all changes or the edit needed a ‘heavy edit’.
The editor is just doing their job by helping you do yours. You don’t have to accept all the changes, but the editor will always have a reason for a change. If you disagree or don’t understand any of the changes, just ask.
No editor should be harsh to a client. If you feel the edit was hard, talk to your editor. Ask them for guidance. Ask yourself if you’re too close to the writing and are taking this personally. Leave the manuscript a few days to avoid having an emotional response.
If you still feel that the editor was unduly harsh then the problem may be with them rather than with you. Sometimes working relationships just don’t work.
Don’t give up on your writing. Use the notes you’ve been given to rewrite and find a different editor that you can work with.
Everyone needs to make a living. It’s a sad fact of life.
When you see the prices on those people for hire sites, ask yourself – what are you getting for your money, will shortcuts be taken, are these people trained and what experience do they have.
What guarantees do you have that they are genuine?
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of very good, qualified editors out there who use those sites to fill schedule gaps (I’ve even considered it when work has been slow) but there are also unqualified ‘editors’ who are just out to make a quick buck.
When you hire someone you aren’t just paying for the physical hours, you’re paying for expertise, equipment, training, experience, professional memberships and CPD too.
If you find a cheap editor, that’s fine. But don’t lose track of what value you will get for your money. A more experienced editor may provide more value for money in the long run.
It’s a myth that every edit will produce a manuscript full of red marks and corrections.
If your writing is good, your voice and point of view are consistent and your spelling on point, there may be few corrections to make. And remember that not every change made will be seen – there are a lot of background changes that are important but not tracked, for example changing hyphens to dashes, numerals to spelt out numbers, getting rid of extra spaces and paragraph returns. If an editor showed you every change made your document would be so full of tracked changes that you’d struggle to see the text.
I’ll bet that there are a lot more changes made than you’ll see in your returned manuscript.
Nope. You’re paying your editor to go through your text and correct it, standardise it and generally make it better – you’re not paying them to rewrite it for you (unless you are!).
A professional editor will know when a manuscript needs more work, and will let you know if it’s better to rewrite first. Why waste your money and their time on a document that isn’t ready for a copy edit?
A professional editor will also know when the subject matter is out of their comfort zone, or if they don’t know enough about the subject to edit it. Despite an initial review of the material, sometimes an editor will find that they’re not qualified to work on a manuscript and will let you know sooner rather than later, often returning the document and advising either further changes or hiring a different editor.
This isn’t personal, it’s a professional courtesy.
Is the editor professionally qualified?
Your editor should be able to keep your author’s voice during the edit. If huge alterations are suggested then ask your editor why. Perhaps your writing needs more work, your structure doesn’t work or you need help with your spelling and sentence construction.
An editor shouldn’t alter your work so it’s unrecognisable. Editors are there to help your writing be the best it can be.
Sometimes a working relationship just doesn’t work. It could be that your personalities clash, or your way of working doesn’t fit. You may just not get along.
Although you’re paying for a professional job it doesn’t mean that you can’t get along. If you don’t see eye to eye with your editor it doesn’t mean that the next editor will be the same.
Talk to each other before starting work. And if you really can’t work together it’s time to find a new editor. Be polite, firm and cut the ties. Then find another editor you do get along with.
So there you go, a few myths busted. Boom!
To help you find that excellent client / editor relationship hare are a few do’s and dont’s to keep in mind:
We’re only human. Of course we make mistakes. And if we make them in the course of our work, which is rare, then we admit it and try to move on professionally. Everyone has ‘off’ days.
Especially when we’re off-duty – cut the editors on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram some slack.
Yes and no. We spot mistakes all the time, but we don’t necessarily feel the need to act on them. No one likes a smart arse.
Believe it or not, some editors feel the need to get away from books when they’re not working.
That’s not me though; I read, I write and I edit. Books are my life.