Editing and Proof Reading

Editing and proof reading

Liz Bourne, our chief editor and proof manager explains the importance of good clean text.

You’ve slaved for months on your manuscript, shown it to your partner, read it to your cat, and now you want to see it in print. Is it ready though?

A successful book requires a touch of objectivity; when you’re so close to it for months, that’s often difficult to achieve. Readers don’t appreciate plot inconsistencies, spelling mistakes and poor punctuation, and more importantly, it will detract from the narrative and enjoyment.

A professional editor will have experience checking copy and spotting any errors that might have slipped into your manuscript.

It can sometimes be hard having the mistakes pointed out, but an editor is only trying to make it better, not criticise to make you feel bad! It’s important to remember what an editor can and cannot do. To understand this, here are the different types of editing you might need:

The big picture. Also called ‘developmental editing’. This could involve restructuring the book, moving chunks of text around or even deleting some. Maybe some of the characters aren’t fully fleshed out? Or the pace of the book doesn’t work? An editor can point these out and suggest amendments. Some reviews.

Copy editing. This involves looking at grammar, consistency and individual sentences, for example, does it read right? If your book has gone through various revisions, it might have lost some of the finer details. A copy editor can check that a character has the same colour hair throughout the book, or that British English instead of US English is used consistently.

Proofreader. The final stage. When your book has gone through various stages or revisions, it’s surprisingly easy for small errors to creep in. These might be small, but can really jar with a reader and reflect on the quality of the book as a whole.

An editor cannot rewrite the book for you. And ultimately, it is up to you to give the final approval.

Remember, there’s no shame in getting your hard work edited and proofread; all books that you see on the shelves in Waterstones will have been through a thorough editing process. Yes, it costs you money, but the process will iron out any issues, however small, and make your book the best it can be.

You can see a serious success story from an established writer here. 

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