Why is editing important?

Read on to find out more about the importance of editing. Also, learn more about the authors’ editor and how they work with their clients to help them achieve their goals.

Summary

  • An authors’ editor works directly with the author to prepare a document for publication.
  • They don’t just improve the language and content but help authors to choose the best route to publishing their work.
  • Whether you’re a native English speaker or not, working with an authors’ editor with pre-submission editing experience can increase chances of success and save precious time.
  • Freelance authors’ editors tend to be more accessible than the larger editing firms. This allows authors to forge a rapport that helps achieve the needed results.
  • 1 in every 10 individuals in the UK deal with dyslexia and struggle to express themselves in writing.
  • It’s not ideal for an author to edit their own work. After all, how objective can one be? Authors’ editors are trained to scrutinise with an unbiased lens.

So, what does an authors’ editor do?

Define editing

Before we delve into what author editing is and how it can benefit you, let us lay the groundwork by defining what we mean by ‘editing’. Editing involves the selection and preparation of various media like written documents, photographs, film and audible content for launch into the public domain. Therefore, editing entails modifying a written document through corrections, reorganisation and restructuring into its final form ready for publication. Whereas, proofreading is the correction of spelling, grammar and punctuation editing takes the work to another level.

Author editing is performed by an authors’ editor and ensures that the author’s written work is fit for purpose using the editing process. In this instance, ‘fit for purpose’ can mean improving a written document to maximise chances of acceptance by journal editors, peer reviewers and publishers.

Definition of an authors’ editor

Not to be confused with technical and medical writers, authors’ editors work on an already drafted document or manuscript. They do NOT perform the writing nor translate on behalf of their client. Authors’ editors work directly with authors to refine and prepare the text for submission, for example, to a scientific journal for publication. They take care of the language and content of a document, polishing off the grammar, format, style, structure, data presentation, accuracy, argumentation and flow. Moreover, a two-way channel of communication is established between the author and the authors’ editor. This enables the authors’ editor to discuss changes to the content and to advise on good writing practice. This is usually done through the insertion of comments within the edited document, telephone calls, emails and video chats.

If you’re new to technical writing or are targeting a high-impact factor journal for the first time, then an authors’ editor is a great source of advice and information. They can explain the publishing process and how to prepare your document to maximise your chances of acceptance. You may be quite adept at drafting high-quality scientific articles, but there are other aspects to really consider. Things like targeting the right journal/publisher, drafting an effective letter to the journal editor and selecting your peer reviewers.

Someone at a computer editing work using a keyboard.
Editing is a crucial stage in preparing your work for release into the public eye.

Who would need an authors’ editor?

Ordinarily, authors who are non-native English speakers that want to publish their work in English will benefit significantly from the expertise of an authors’ editor. Regardless of whether someone is a native or non-native English speaker, an authors’ editor can help save precious time. However, novice authors who go at it alone are very likely to face multiple instances of rejection from publishers and journal editors. Working with an authors’ editor with pre-submission editing experience would help prevent such circumstances and aim to increase the chances of acceptance.

Editing can be tedious and time-consuming

You may very well have mastered the English language. You may also have excellent content that you want to publish. But, you just lack the necessary time to go through text containing thousands upon thousands of words with a fine-tooth comb. The bigger the word count, the more chances there are of errors occurring. Which means you need more time to correct them. So, an authors’ editor can still be of equal use.

One can seek editing services by some of the well-known publishers, journals or editing companies at reasonable rates, but commonly you won’t have the opportunity to dialogue with the editor responsible for the work. It can make the whole process seem awfully formal and detached. In such cases, you visit the service provider’s website, choose a service option, pay then upload your file. Your document is then edited by a qualified individual that you won’t have much contact with, if at all or an anonymous professional where there are no real channels of communication established for back and forth dialogue. For some, this is ideal. However, what if you want to get to know the editor and establish a rapport?

Working with freelance authors’ editors means you may have the opportunity to forge the kind of working relationship necessary to communicate across exactly what your requirements are from the outset. Most editors would want this accessibility because they want to do the best job possible for their clients.

My personal take…

Throughout your time in education and working life, it’s likely that you will end up doing a lot of written assignments.

Now you’re a person who takes pride in their work, so you always try to read over your work before you submit just to make sure everything looks neat and tidy. You may end up correcting the odd mistake and even changing some of the text. So, you edit. You may even have a friend check over your work because it’s fair to say that it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. You do this because you want to improve your chances of getting the best possible grade. This may suffice for minor assignments, but the stakes become much higher with major pieces of work such as the all-important final year project report, the dreaded master’s dissertation, the mountainous PhD thesis and the illustrious research article.

Miscommunication

I recall once marking a 5,000-word coursework assignment for a postgraduate module. This particular piece of coursework was submitted by a non-native English speaker. The proficiency of English used in said coursework was such that I was unable to understand a majority of sentences which made it virtually impossible to understand the message that the student wanted to put across. As a result, it was unclear whether the student had addressed all the points set out for the assignment. Sadly, this had a negative impact on the final grade.

Native English speakers aren’t immune

You may even be a native English speaker, yet struggle to express yourself in writing. There are people that struggle with a learning difficulty like dyslexia. The NHS estimate that 1 in 10 people in the UK deals with some level of dyslexia. 1 in 10 may not sound like much, but that’s around 7 million individuals, a figure that is more than double the population of Wales in 2019.

English is difficult

English is a notoriously difficult language to master. Imagine you have just learnt the English alphabet and you are shown the word ‘though’ for the first time. How would you pronounce it? What about ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’? ‘To’ or ‘too’? Native English speakers will go their entire life never knowing the difference. I really sympathise with non-native English speakers having to produce reports, dissertations, theses and the like in the English language. It may seem obvious, but I would always encourage these non-native English speakers to practice their English by speaking to native English speakers as much as possible. In addition, I’d also say ‘watch English TV programmes like movies and the news. Read books and even practice writing at every chance’.

So is writing

Even when you’ve got a good handle on the English language when it comes to writing large documents your chances of making errors is very probable. After all, you’re human. You could ask your trusted friend to proofread or edit your 50,000+ word PhD thesis, but that’s a big favour right there. You could just put it aside for a few weeks, come back to it with fresh eyes and edit yourself. However, sometimes being so close to the work you never guarantee all mistakes will be caught. Is it realistic to expect an author to read their own work as an objective reader? A separate unbiased pair of eyes will only do.

It has to be perfect

Suppose you go into a book store and purchase a textbook, novel or magazine, how would you feel if you were confronted with numerous spelling and grammar mistakes? Just one mistake may be seen as unacceptable. From a reader’s perspective, the text must be immaculate, free from any and all mistakes. If you, as a reader, encounter a simple spelling mistake, you may then question the quality of the publication. This will no doubt have a negative impact on sales revenue and readership.

An experienced editor works with a client to understand their needs and the message they want to convey as well as check to see if this has been expressed on paper correctly and effectively.

What do you think?

Do you think I’ve missed something? Do you need proofreading, editing, course designing, grant proposal writing or consultancy services? I’d love to hear from you. Get your free quote today!

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Naser Al-Mufachi
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