WHAT I DO
YOUR EDIT . . .
can be a quick cleanup, or it can go deeper—depending on what I find.
A special note for students: I will address any mechanical problems or issues of consistency, clarity, and flow that I identify in your manuscript; verify references; and ensure compliance with the style guide and writing conventions of your discipline. I do not make fundamental content alterations in response to recommendations from your faculty mentor—that's your job.
It Starts Here
Everything must be correct—and consistent. That’s what a light edit does. An editor working at this level is kind of like Watson the computer with a human soul.
Correctness is, first of all, in the mechanics. I will go over each sentence of your manuscript to deal with basic issues like grammar, spelling, punctuation, lack of parallelism, misuse of idiom, erroneous word choice, dangling modifiers. Correctness also includes accuracy. If that is in question, the perceived value of your entire piece can go way down. If I suspect a compromise to your credibility, I will offer corrections or suggest that you revisit your references. I can do a more thorough fact-check if you request it.
Consistency in mechanics and format is ensured according to two standard style guides,The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. I am also current with APA style, 6th ed., and MLA. If you represent an organization and it has a style guide, I’ll follow that too. If needed, I will develop a style sheet just for you to ensure that Aunt Millie doesn’t morph into Aunt Milly in the last chapter.
But It Can Go Further
Even though your writing has been technically “put to rights,” I might see the need for some alterations in how you say things. If you agree, here’s where the editing will be at a medium or even heavy level. I will make certain changes involving words, sentences, and paragraphs, which you can accept—or not. Some refer to copyediting at these levels as substantive editing.
Language. Your words must please me—I am the stand-in for your future readers! I track down the old bugaboos of wordiness, repetition, cliché, mixed metaphor, offensive language, jargon, awkward sentence construction, misuse of passive voice and dialogue, overuse of a pet phrase or device, awkward punctuation—anything that could put a barrier between you and your audience. In pursuit of your excellence, I tend to follow the tried and true rule "eliminate unnecessary words," targeting anything that does not contribute to your goal.
Clarity. Clear writing gets right to the point, but achieving it is sometimes tricky. Even though your point is clear enough to you, it may not seem so to your reader. I will spot these problems and work with you to achieve that noble goal.
“Good Writing.” You are the author, and you know more than a few things already, but as your editor, I’m likely to give you miscellaneous suggestions under the heading of Good Writing in which I do things like suggest places to “show, not tell” and comment on your use (or overuse) of adjectives and adverbs. I will rewrite a passage here and there, but I am a good ghostwriter and can seamlessly integrate. When you have reviewed my changes and revised the whole thing, I will put on my copyeditor's hat one last time as the final step prior to publication.
Unless Your Big Picture Needs More Focusing . . .
. . . before ANY copyediting happens! Sometimes after review of a manuscript, I recommend a developmental process, having realized that the piece needs more work on your end before a copyedit is worth your investment. You could simply take my initial recommendations to your studio and get back to work, or you could, in addition, consider allowing me to put on my developmental editor’s hat and evaluate your presentation as a whole for its ability to lead the reader happily along to a satisfying conclusion. I’ll make recommendations regarding theme, structure, organization, logic, storyline, and give you general comments on overall tone and effectiveness. We can collaborate on your manuscript until you are truly ready to publish. The particulars of how I am compensated for this work are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
* * *
It’s all part of an interactive process—
and the final decision on my level of involvement is always your call.
I cannot guarantee that my work will make your manuscript sell,
but I will have significantly improved its chances.
PROOFREADING . . .?
Yes, I do that too. Proofreading takes place pretty much at the level of mechanics, and by definition is strictly for provisionally final text—manuscripts that are already well-written and well-edited and need only a final review against a standard prior to publication. (What a shame to let your carefully crafted content be discounted just because of a silly tpyo typo!)