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Why Hire an Editor?

When writing a book or other type of literary text, the step most often overlooked and not utilized is editing. Hiring a professional editor is probably one of the most important steps in the publishing process. Editing is often thought of as being something that anyone can do. But when a professionally edited document is placed next to one that was edited by a friend or colleague, the differences can be astonishing. Most intelligent readers can instantly tell the difference between a professionally published book and a self-published book simply by how it reads.

Reasons to consider hiring a professional editor.

Many authors are shocked at the number of edits placed on their precious work, but most of the time the edits are seen as vast improvements. The editor's eye can save an author from embarrassing mistakes.

An author editing their own document is risky. Being too close to their work almost always results in blatant or obvious errors slipping through to the final product, no matter how many times they have reviewed it. Everyone needs another set of eyes to check their work and act as a potential reader. In essence, it's a reality check.

Relying on one's peers for editing also often results in things being missed or ignored. Another factor is the relationship of the author and editor. If they are too close, the editor may not be as critical as they should be. It is always best to go outside of one's personal circle to get the most objective — and useful — opinions.

Ideas or concepts that are perfectly clear to the author may not come across in the intended manner and may be misinterpreted by the reader. Editors are very good at helping authors clarify their messages and improve their writing, without sacrificing their unique style or writing personality.

When elaborating on a thought, everyone has the potential of going on a tangent, down a rathole, or climbing up on a soapbox. An editor can be that critical voice of reason who keeps the writer on track.

Types of Editing

There are levels of editing that can be applied. What level an author decides to use depends on their deadline, their budget, and well, uh ... their ego.

Basic Proofreading

Checks for the obvious errors. Corrections to spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Basically what most people view as editing.

Copy Editing

Includes proofreading, but also includes the often overlooked importance of consistency in spelling, symbols, punctuation, methods of emphasis (bold, italic, capitalization, underlining, etc.). Really thorough editors will also check to make sure that all facts and data are consistently cited and correct. This often includes making sure that abbreviations, names, and special uses of punctuation are consistent. The editor may also offer suggestions to change wording in order to improve the clarity of the presentation, or to make the manuscript adhere to an accepted style.

Essential Editing

At this level, an author must be most open to constructive criticism. The editor will make more concise recommendations for rewording text. Reducing confusion to the reader by doing away with over-specialized words, long-windedness or redundancy, and incongruities in the text. The readability of the manuscript can also be improved through polishing the stream of thoughts, and doing away with "circus text" (the overuse of bold, italic, capitals, etc.). Rephrasing also often makes a manuscript more inviting and interesting by changing a potentially patronizing or scolding tone.

Refined Editing

This can almost be considered coauthoring. The editor is engaged very early in the creation process and helps the author develop the manuscript from the basic initial concepts. The editor may make suggestions for how the information is organized, presented, and formatted. Assistance with visual images such as figures or tables may be offered as well.

Conclusion

Hiring a professional editor is the best investment a writer can make if they want to put their best foot forward. Consider the potential cost of not eliciting the help of a professional editor. There are always readers who will question or criticize a book's content, but they should never be given the opportunity to criticize a work for perceived elementary and/or unprofessional errors. Remember, the work presented is for the benefit of the reader, not the writer. But the final product represents the author, so it is important to make the best impression possible!

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