Editing: Part 1 – What is editing?

Several weeks ago, I wrote about a post about roundups, themes, and link love posts. I mentioned that I intend to write one series each month and asked for input on subjects readers would like to know more about. Word vixen left this comment:

I’d personally like to know more about editing. Particularly whether it’s better to take a course in editing, or just buy a style book and study it.

Let’s start with understanding what editing is. Misconceptions abound, even among “editors.” One client brought me a manuscript that was riddled with grammatical errors, fragments and run on sentences, and wrong word usages. He told me he had paid an editor to edit the manuscript but wasn’t happy with the results. No wonder! Apparently, the “editor” ran spell and grammar check and accepted the first recommendation every time. Instead of improving the manuscript, he made it much worse.

Although I depend on spell-check to catch typos and those certain words I always misspell, I probably reject more suggestions than I accept. Spell-check is useful only to alert you to possible errors, and grammar-check is wrong more often than it’s right.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines editing this way:

To prepare (written material) for publication or presentation, as by correcting, revising, or adapting.

Often people think of editing primarily as making corrections, which is, of course, an important part of editing. However, editing isn’t just correcting what’s wrong. It’s also improving what’s right.

I tell my clients that my goal is to make their work sound like them … only better.

My plan for this series is to focus on self-editing but also to include information that will be helpful to you if you are hiring a freelance editor or working with an editor at a publishing house. Please comment if there are specific topics you’d like covered or particular questions you’d like answered.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss the different kinds and degrees of editing.

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