Editing and proofreading your own writing is hard, because you know what it is that your writing is supposed to say. Your brain automatically fixes errors as you read over what you wrote, so you don’t notice them. Others do notice those errors, though, and having errors in your writing interferes with the reading experience, especially with educated readers. That’s why everyone needs an editor. You want to make it easy for your readers to stay with you, and not get distracted by or disgusted with errors.
Editor or proofreader
There are a few different kinds of editing, and then there’s proofreading, which is actually a different job (though I combine it with the editing I do). Not everyone uses the same definitions for the different types of editing, and that can be confusing! Developmental editing or “deep edits” involve directing the writer regarding the bones of a book: plot, character development, or, in the case of nonfiction, the subject matter’s topic and organization.
I don’t do “deep edits,” and I’ll tell you why: in my opinion, it’s taking control of the author’s work, and then it’s not really the author’s story anymore. It’s an amalgam of the editor’s story and the author’s story, and I’m not comfortable with that at all.
Others may want and need that, and that’s fine, but they won’t get it from me. In my opinion—which is just my opinion, others feel very differently—if an editor wants to write a book, then s/he should write a book, not commandeer a book someone else wrote. Some editors are also writers, and some want to be. I think that’s great. I just don’t like writing someone else’s book under the guise of helping them shape it (ghostwriting is different, and I’ve done that, too).
I do line editing (often called copyediting, a basic edit, or a substantive edit) and proofreading. That’s interacting with work that is beyond the developmental stage, work that’s much closer to completion, work that just needs polishing. I help the author shine. I help the writer get their writing ready for publication, their baby ready to show to the world.
Proofreading is included with my editing services, so when the work leaves my hands, it’s ready for typesetting/formatting. Most editors don’t do that; a book goes to a separate person for that, usually—but not when I edit a book. Why pay extra fees? I may learn to do Kindle formatting in the near future, and would include that, too, so a book could go straight to publication.
I like to have authors send me their books when they believe they are ready for the printer. You may think that means I only have to make a few changes, but you might be surprised. On average, I find and correct 4,000 errors per book. That’s when the authors think it’s done. It’s already been through other editors and proofreaders, then it comes to me, and I find what they miss. Imagine how many errors there would be if those books hadn’t gone through other sets of eyes first! I’ve correced as many as 8,000 mistakes in a manuscript before.
It’s very common for there to be many corrections that need to be made, so don’t feel bad if you make a lot of slips in your writing. I can tell you from experience that most writers do.
For some reason, errors jump out at me, seeming to stand out from the page. It could be because I have a bit of synesthesis, but it definitely has something to do with the fact that I’ve read over 15,000 books so far in my life. When people are trained to detect counterfeit money, they aren’t taught the many ways money can be counterfeited; they are taught every detail about the real thing, about how it should be. Then, they can easily detect anything that is “off” in currency they handle.
I believe the same process is at play with my ability to edit and proofread: I’ve read so many books that I can’t help but notice when there’s an error. Most people—even editors—haven’t read nearly that many books, so they don’t have that advantage. I’ve noticed that over the years, books have begun to have more typographical errors slip by the proofreaders. I rarely found an error in books I read more than 20 years ago. Books that have been published recently almost always have errors. So I was trained by looking at books that were done the right way, and now, I easily spot the mistakes.
I haven’t worked for a traditional publishing house, as some freelance editors have. I have plenty of experience, though. I also don’t take as long to edit a book as they do. That may be because I don’t have 30 manuscripts on my desk at once. I do one or two books at a time, so I can focus on them and do excellent work. Authors deserve the very best.
I’ve line edited/proofread several books now (including a two-volume book for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art), as well as many manuals/handbooks for libraries, colleges, and fast-food operations; more than one hundred articles, and too many academic papers to count. I’ve worked in the grants department of a college, where every proposal and outgoing document went through me. In fact, in most of the jobs I’ve held, I was the person everyone came to when something needed to be written or edited. I’ve also edited more than one thousand blog posts since 2012. Which leads me to…
Why bloggers need an editor
Blogging isn’t the same as writing a book, you may hear (or think). Yet it’s still important to be sure posts are polished. Because blog posts can be written and published so quickly, most aren’t proofread by anyone other than the author, and, as you already know, we miss our own errors because we know what is supposed to be there.
Having errors in your posts makes people think (even subconsciously) that you don’t know your subject, and it causes them to dismiss you instead of revering you as the authority you are. Instead of listening to you and taking your advice, or buying your products and services, they click away from your site and look for someone who “knows what they’re talking about.” How unfortunate that would be.
Affordable editing services
Blog editing is affordable, and if you hire a blog editor who also specializes in keyword research and positioning (often referred to as SEO, but there are other things that fall into the category of SEO as well), then you get more “bang for your buck.” Good keyword research and positioning can help your posts rank better with Google and other search engines.
The fear with hiring a proofreader for your blog is that the posts won’t be ready in time. You want to get this post out NOW. I understand that. I’ve edited some posts and had them back to the blogger in as short a time as ten minutes. I think most people would agree that it’s worth it to wait a few minutes and have a post be polished before it’s published. Once something is published, whether online or in print, it’s “out there” for the world to see, forever. It is worth the time and money to hire a copyeditor or proofreader to make sure it’s “good to go.”