Publishing · writing

In Defense of Copy Editors: Why Writers Should Use One

Writing ball keyboards look a little magical, don’t they?

“I don’t want someone else to destroy me work.”

I have heard innumerable writers make some variation of that statement. But often having someone else critique a manuscript is the only way for an author to improve it. After all, he or she has been staring at it for months, grown attached to scenes and characters, and is no longer entirely capable of knowing what parts of the story need to be rearranged or removed.

That is why authors need copy editors.

Copy editors often take the form of agents or book editors and often wear many different hats when assessing a written work. They perform mechanical editing, which includes proofreading for consistency, spelling, quotations, and formatting. They look for grammar errors while maintaining a work’s stylistic integrity. And they edit for content. That last portion of their job is what tends to make authors the most nervous.

Editing for content can involve things as simple as suggesting minor organizational changes, or it can involve major overhauls of a work. Many authors, especially those who haven’t been part of a publishing process before, are unprepared for how extensive the content editing process can be. As a result, they avoid copy editors, avoid criticism, and avoid making their works better. Writing may be art or a personal passion, but some written works are still better than others. Copy editing can make the difference between a terrible and good piece.

With that in mind, I do suggest that even people who are self-publishing consider using a copy editor. Freelancers are typically very affordable, and it can be such a relief to know that another, critical set of eyes is invested in making your work better.

Here is some other quick copy editing advice:

  1. Only hire a copy editor when you think you have reached the final draft stage. You have done what you can. Now it is someone else’s turn.
  2. Find an editor who specializes in your genre. A copy editor who works primarily with romance books may not be as talented editing fantasy or horror ones.
  3. Be patient. Copy editing takes time, so give your editor enough time to make expensive feedback.
  4. Ask around! Ask writer friends what copy editors they use. There are a lot of freelance editors on the internet, and it’s hard to know which ones are the best for you. Getting recommendations from other writers is a great way to find out.

So as you go forth with your editing process, don’t worry too much about editors destroying your work. Editors want to improve your writing not destroy it, and it’s better for an editor to identify problems then for your readers to spot them.

If you have favorite copy editors or ways around hiring one, feel free to share them below! I know that self-publishers in particular are good at being scrappy about these things.



9 thoughts on “In Defense of Copy Editors: Why Writers Should Use One

  1. I couldn’t afford to pay a copy editor or proofreader, so I approached three friends who didn’t know each and lived far apart. One lectures in English literature in a college in west Canada, another, a retired actress in London and the last was working as tour manager for Linkin Park. It was the latter who turned out to be the most reliable. Every night, around 11pm, I got an email with one chapter, heavily subbed and marked with margin notes and red lines. It was cool and the best thing I ever did.

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s