Most writers are ambivalent about turning their work over to others, especially editors. We write to be read, of course, yet this leaves us open to critical judgments.
On the other hand, a pair of objective eyes (read: editor’s) can be a writer’s best friend. Editors can spot all kinds of errors or omissions before the finished product reaches readers.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, a 2015 MacArthur Foundation Fellow and winner of the George Polk Award for Commentary for his article, “The Case for Reparations” (The Atlantic, June 2014) June writes of the late editor David Carr (his editor at Washington City Paper.)
He would bring in writers from Vanity Fair and enlist them to break down our own stories and explain where we were going wrong and how we could make it right. David wanted us always moving faster, always getting stronger, always reaching higher.
If acclaimed writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, appreciates the virtues of having an editor, we would do well to follow his lead.
So, what do editors do?
Copy editors do line by line searches for grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors.
Senior editors and managing editors look at the big picture: content, tone, accuracy and readability.
In an age of self-publishing, novices who have never worked for print media or e-zines, might not appreciate the usefulness of editors and rely on one set of eyes–their own–to catch errors from the grammatical to the egregious.
For some writers cost can be a prohibiting factor. Editing costs can range from $30 to $60 an hour–a tidy sum for those who seek to earn money–depending on the kind of edit you want. Line edits are less costly than substantive (or content) edits. Nonetheless, a few well-spent dollars up front can determine how seriously others take your work.
Potential publishers as well as readers can be lost by submitting/publishing unedited, unproofed work.
Editorial services or freelance editors can do the job. Research both. Ask questions. Get referrals from the local writer’s group.
Work scrutinized up front can pay off in well-deserved kudos.
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