In this age of information overload, what you write has to compete for the scarce time of your readership. Whether in reports, books, policy statements, curriculum materials, web pages, press releases, tender documents and proposals, newsletters, conference proceedings, annual reports, exhibition interpretation, online magazines, training courses or radio and television scripts, editors can give your words the clarity and zing to get your message across effectively.
You need an editor to
- be the ‘quality control’ on your newsletter, web site, brochure, manual, directory, annual report or book
- check spelling and grammar and to proofread any written material, and
- give advice on all aspects of writing and publishing.
In short, editors are very useful. Members of the Society of Editors (Tasmania) work in newspapers, libraries, government departments, IT companies, small business or large corporations throughout the state. Others are freelancers whose details can be found on our Freelance Register.
An editor can help you to:
- Clarify what you want to say
You know what you want to say but you feel that the message isn’t coming across clearly. It’s especially difficult if you’re working as a group. An editor can help you and your colleagues to cut through confusion, consolidate your message and express it in the best way for your target readers or audience.
- Look good
Awkward grammar and typos detract from your message and your credibility. An editor can focus on the details and make sure that your communications are to the point, clear and correct.
- Avoid expense
Ambiguous or incorrect information can be costly. Perhaps you’ve had to reprint a report or leaflet; perhaps a poorly written contract has cost you a penalty; perhaps you have lost a customer because of crossed wires. Overlong or too-complex documents are a needless expense. An editor can see and solve problems before they cost you money.
- Manage production cost-effectively
Publishing—whether in print or electronically—is probably not your core business. An editor can advise you about the production process, can brief designers and printers or Web site developers, and can manage the publishing process so that the finished product is delivered on time and on budget.
What’s the difference?
Proofreading usually means doing a basic but careful check to ensure that there are no spelling or punctuation mistakes in your document, presentation or web page.
Editing is a much more comprehensive service. It includes proofreading, but can also involve:
- suggesting ways to present information more logically and coherently
- providing options for improving grammar
- querying ambiguous or ‘fuzzy’ text
- flagging possible errors of fact
- removing inconsistencies in style in multi-author documents
- improving text so it is more persuasive
- making wording shorter and clearer, more appealing and easier to understand
- standardising references so that the formatting, punctuation and presentation is consistent
- supplying briefing notes for graphic designers
- providing project management from writing to editing, design, layout, proofing and printing, and
- preparing templates to help streamline things next time.
In the initial consultation, the editor and the client decide which of these services are necessary to produce an effective publication.
More comprehensive descriptions of different types of editing may be found on the IPEd website.
How to prepare for an editor
When you first consult an editor, they are likely to ask you some of the following questions, so it’s a good idea to prepare answers before you make the call.
- How big is the job? (How many words, or how many pages, and how many words to the page.)
- How many writers wrote it?
- Who is it for?
- When do you need the job to be completed?
- Which editing services do you need? (See Proofreading or editing above.)
- In order to prepare a quote, can the editor see at least 25–30% of the text?
- Would you like suggested changes to be handwritten on a print-out, made to an electronic file, or made in Microsoft Word with Track Changes turned on?
- If you would like changes made to an electronic file, which platform and software do you use, and which version of the software?
- Do you want the document formatted for printing or will a graphic designer be doing that?
- Are there diagrams, charts or spreadsheet data, and if so, what software was used to produce them?
- Is the editor responsible for checking financial, statistical or mathematical data as well as text?
More than meets the eye
As you will have gathered, the members of the Society of Editors (Tasmania) do more than just check spelling and scrutinise syntax (although they do those things extremely well). Check out the range of expertise of the multi-skilled membership on the national Editors Directory.