Part of the writing process is getting out the red pen to clean up the copy.
By Shelley Widhalm
Editing is part of the writing process, or most definitely should be, even for emails.
Too many errors, and expert status is lowered, and writers look careless, as if they do not know what they’re doing. It gives the message that it’s OK, because everyone else is doing it, so why not join in? There isn’t enough time, or it’s not necessary. It’s just a rough draft, but it needs to be sent off anyway.
If it’s fiction, it won’t get a read if there are too many glaring errors, despite the content. Or if it’s self-published, the writing looks amateurish, making it hard to trust the story and stay on the page—errors cause the eye to stop and notice them instead of the plot, characters and setting.
Editing and a review process are important for all writers, no matter the skill level, because no one can write anything great and perfect the first time. In the least, there could be a typo or a missed word.
Before editing, set aside the writing (unless it’s an email or communication that needs to be immediately sent off) for a day or hire a third party to review the work.
Here are a few reasons why editing is important:
- To ensure what you wrote matches what you intended to say and that your message gets across.
- To ensure what you wrote is what you meant to write, instead of what is actually there, such as saying “their,” instead of “there.” It’s harder to see your own mistakes.
- To tighten up what you wrote, so that there are not repetitions of material or awkward transitions between ideas or paragraphs.
- To add missing information or to correct factual errors.
- To make sure the flow of thoughts and ideas is logical and that there is a good structure to how the material is presented.
- To make sure everything is understandable with the right amount of detail, but not too much detail that attention is lost.
Hiring an editor to do that editing:
Writers can start off by doing a round of their own editing to fix anything they find before hiring an editor. Manuscripts with lots of errors or sloppy writing take longer to edit and, if the editor charges by the hour, cost more.
Or, hire the editor right away, but realize that editing is best done in at least two rounds, one for general editing and a second for proofreading to catch additional errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation and mechanics.
Longer manuscripts generally go through multiple stages of editing, including structural or developmental editing that looks at the entire manuscript, line editing at each individual line of text and then final proofreading to check for any missed errors.
Editing from an outside perspective can be more objective—writers get stuck in their own writing and love it because it’s their work.
The readers, too, will appreciate the editing, showing them that what they’re reading is worth their time and energy. An error won’t make them start asking questions about the meaning, the content or the writer.