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What can a professional editor do for you?


Let's say that you've written something. Maybe it's a technical manual, non-fiction book, status report, journal article, novel, advertorial, or blog post. You've now got a few choices in readying the work before you release it (or send it to the next stage on the way to release).

  • Read the text over and edit it yourself.
  • Ask a colleague, close friend, or family member to "proofread" the text to check for typos.
  • Give the text to someone with the expertise, experience, and objectivity to skilfully advise and support you in creating a piece of work that—in addition to being scrubbed of spelling errors—will be clear, interesting, credible, and right for your target readers. That person is a professional editor.

Professional editors are masters of seeing both the big picture and the fine details

For many new writers, the thought of letting an editor see their work can induce a tinge of resistance.

"I'm an expert in this subject," a writer might think. "Why would I let someone who's not my equal comment on what I've written?" Or, "Why would I change a word to satisfy someone else's notion of how I should express myself?" Or, "My ideas are so original, how could someone fixated on commas and dangling modifiers understand the complexities of what I'm writing about?"

Most people know that editors will tidy up typos, misspellings, and grammatical slips. But these tasks are only one band on the wide editorial service spectrum. The stereotype of editors as obsessed nitpickers with a personal agenda is a tired one; professional editors offer real value to any organization or individual who strings words together for others to read.

In fact, editors are better thought of as interpreters and translators, facilitators between writers and audiences, advocates for estranged readers, and sage wayfinders on the communication trail.

Professional editors know a lot about a lot of things

Scan the Professional Editorial Standards of Editors Canada to see the breadth and depth of editorial skill sets.

Then consider that, on top of this overall editorial expertise, many editors specialize. Some work regularly or exclusively in particular subject areas (e.g., architecture, economics, law, math and statistics, medicine, transportation) or genres (e.g., advertising, cookbooks, e-books, government materials, fiction, music notation, screenplays, speeches, textbooks, websites).

Professional editors have their clients' best interests at heart

If you're still unsure about what an editor can do for you, think of the prospect this way: as you go into the world text first, wouldn't you like a really strong ally, someone who has your back?

This is your show, your runway, your TED Talk moment. An editor will work hard to help your appearance be memorable for all the right reasons and none of the wrong ones. That editor will act like your lighting and sound engineer, makeup artist, dresser, prompter, PR person, and safety marshal, going to great lengths to prevent unflattering lighting, screechy speaker feedback, wardrobe malfunctions, and tripping hazards.

And as if that's not enough, your editor will help ensure your program is not so long, dense, or repetitive that people get bored by you. Your editor will work with you to mine, chisel, and polish your best content into idea and information gems that people will remember (again, for the right reasons and not the wrong ones).

What's the better question a writer could ask?

What am I risking by opting not to work with a professional editor?