How Does an Editor Prepare to Edit Your Work?
Editing is much more than looking at punctuation, spelling, and grammar, and even those aspects are complex. Editors have to prepare to edit a work in a number of ways including education, consultation, and making careful decisions about what and how to edit. Below are some of the ways I prepare for editing a book.
- Get to know the author, publishing method (publisher, if there is one), and audience the project has. Understanding the writer, publisher, and reader’s perspectives and needs help me make sure the project meets expectations to the best of its abilities. Often, this requires me to act as a decision maker or mediator and to advocate for all parties or offer alternative solutions.
- Research a high-level understanding of the topic or refresh on my deeper knowledge of the topic learned from my experience and education. Sometimes this means reviewing style manuals, academic or factual articles, reading other works that inspired the author or that the publisher felt the project should mimic, and educating myself on some of the facts and concerns of topics ranging personal and professional in the genre or subject. It also means knowing my limitations and ensuring that an expert is consulted in the publishing process or refusing works that I don’t have a background in where my inexperience could affect the outcome of the work (I wouldn’t be suited to edit technical works in medicine or engineering, for example).
- Identify what type of English the book will be published in, determine if I need to edit to that particular English dialect (if examples need to be changed to match a Canadian vs an Australian audience, for example). This also means identifying and researching the right dictionaries and being aware of colloquialisms (slang) and whether or not they fit within the work right down to whether or not contractions would be appropriate.
- Identify the best style manuals, guides, and editing resources to rely on when editing. Depending on the work, I may use a technical style guide, build a custom style guide for current and future project consistency, and/or consult industry resources. An editor should be aware of industry-appropriate resources that fit best in the editing process for your book.
- Be aware of social and political concerns such as bias, stereotypes, and fake news. Part of my role, especially when editing non-fiction, but sometimes with fiction works, is to identify concerns a publisher and author need to investigate further that pose liability or moral implications. I work to identify possible infringements on copyrights and trademarks, stereotypical language or assumptions, biases of authors or publishers, suspect facts, or inappropriate or out-dated terminology. Thankfully, my background (education and experience) provides me a unique perspective that helps me be aware and identify some of these factors, especially inclusivity and writing in plain language.
- Identify editing tools that fit the project. This would include software, format, worksheets and guides (beyond the style manuals/guides), expert knowledge resources, marketing and reviewing, and more which could assist in the success of my editing and the project’s reception to its readers/viewers.
Fun fact, did you know that grammar, spelling, and punctuation are not set in stone? These simple elements of writing actually vary from dialect, place, industry, and even writer to writer. There are two schools of thought: one that believes in structure across all English, and one that believes in the ever-changing evolution of language and the validity of speaker/writer usage. Neither of these anywhere agree on a definitive way of doing things. I try to adopt a middle ground with a leaning towards validity of speaker/writer usage, but my ultimate goal (and the ultimate goal of editors everywhere) is consistency in each work edited.
So there you have it.
An editor’s work is never done.