Working with a Professional Editor
The Complete Writer:
The Ultimate Guide to Writing, Publishing, and Leading the Writer’s Life
An experienced editor knows language and knows how to produce a publishable work. Professional editors also know the requirements of the various style manuals that govern publication in various disciplines and marketplaces: they know how a manuscript must be prepared before it can be published. They know how to operate the software to create the desired final product.
Most editors work with a specific constituency. There are, for example, technical editors, business editors, medical editors, science editors, and the like. They know the style and content requirements of certain types of publications, such as scholarly journals, popular periodicals, trade books, or textbooks.
Some editors will do a degree of writing coaching, if that’s what’s desired. Before hiring someone to advise on your approach to your subject and your content, be sure to check the person’s qualifications. This is a different skill from preparing a manuscript for print or e-publication. Ask for references; then get in touch and ask how the project went and what was its outcome. You might try googling the proposed editor, too, to see whether any comments about his or her performance appear online.
Most editors work in Microsoft Word, and so your manuscript should be submitted in .doc or .docx format.
Corrections, deletions, or additions are done in Word’s “track changes” function. Queries or brief explanations are added in marginal “comments” balloons. The result, if it’s heavily edited, looks something like figure 1:
The editor should also provide a version in which all edits have been “accepted,” so you can see what the final version would look like and see the comments only, without the confusing bric-a-brac. Alternatively, when Word’s “track changes” function is on, you should see a drop-down menu titled “Show.” To hide all the static, unclick everything in that menu except “comments.” Then you will see edited copy with only the comments visible. After you’ve read and made a decision about each comment or query, you can delete it by clicking the X in the upper right-hand corner of the comment balloon.
A “clean” edited version of the example above, then, would look like figure 2:
Copyeditors are also intimately familiar with the specific style manuals required by specific publishers, such as Chicago, Oxford, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, Council of Science Editors, and the like. References, tables, graphs, and a number of other details must be formatted correctly according to the manual that the publisher specifies. Formatted in APA style, a typical edited version of a reference list, for example, might end up looking like figure 3:
Most authors prefer writing to filling their heads with worries about ditzy details like these. Therein lies the value of a hired professional editor.