The Importance of Professional Editing, Part 2


In Part One of The Importance of Professional Editing, we set the table. Now, in the second of this two-part piece, we finish mapping out three different stages of editing, plotting a route that will guide you safely to your dream destination: a published author whose book is ready to take on the literary marketplace!

Picking up where we left off, a substantive editor helps to:

  • Ensure your message is clear and strong

  • Clarify meaning sentence by sentence

  • Assess the clarity of your book as a whole

  • Eliminate jargon or unnecessary words and phrases

  • Polish language to as professional and/or clear a level as possible

  • Make sure the structure of the book (chapters, sub sections, citations, bibliographies) is correct and formatted properly

  • Pose questions or leave comments regarding missing information, confusing elements

  • Provide suggestions for improvements (eg. more sensory description in a scene) that only an author can create

  • Fact check

  • Format citations

  • Copy edit

For nonfiction:

  • Check consistency of information

  • Assess efficacy of structure and organization of the argument to ensure its success

  • Assist in perfecting the structure and organization of the argument to ensure its success

  • Assess the successfulness of visual aids such as source material, diagrams, illustrations, etc.

For fiction:

  • Ensure characterization is believable and effective

  • Check plot development for structure, organization, and entertainment value

  • Improve ‘flow’ of events in the story

  • Address places which “slow down” the pace of the story

  • Assess the successfulness of visual aids such as source material, diagrams, illustrations, etc.

Mechanics: Copy Editing & Proofreading

A content (or substantive) edit is, as its technical name suggests, substantial. The number of big picture changes, by the editor and by the author (post-edit) means that while mechanical corrections have been made throughout, the manuscript will likely require at least one final round of mechanical editing to ensure it’s in top condition for printing.

A mechanical edit is one that deals only with the correction of technical aspects of writing (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.) There are two types of mechanical edit: copyediting and proofreading.

Either edit (often both) are performed on a manuscript after a substantive edit. They do the exact same thing, but the frequency of correction is vastly different.

Both a copy edit and a proofread correct:

  • Grammar

  • Spelling

  • Punctuation

  • Typos and missing words

  • Erroneous word usage

  • Mechanics of style

  • Consistency of information

  • Fact checking

  • Insertion of image tags

  • Unusual design or formatting requirements for the design team

  • Consistency of spelling convention (eg. American, British or Canadian English)

  • Required permissions


Some writers worry that allowing another person to ‘interfere’ with their work will in some way negatively affect the end result. Fear Not.

All professional editing is performed using Microsoft Word’s track changes tool or something like it. This feature means that every change the editor makes is visibly recorded for the author to see later. Not only can the author see the changes made to their manuscript, but they can also reject them with just the click of a mouse should they find any stylistic or other changes that they disagree with.

A universal requirement of a professional editor is that they do not impose their own personal style or preferences on your manuscript. This means that your authorial voice—the thing most unique to you as a writer—will be respected, maintained and tended to by your editor. Your voice will never compromised.

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