Editing Tip #76 – Knowing What You’re Doing

Knowing your limitations and being honest with yourself about them is often hard to do – especially for Indie Authors who often push themselves to the limits because the budget is so tight or non-existent.

The best way to find out about your own prowess as a self-editor is by helping other writers with their early drafts. You can offer to “take a look at” a friend or colleague’s work and see what jumps out at you:

If you’re most comfortable dealing with the big picture and broad strokes then you can call yourself an amateur General Editor or Content Editor. This is where you work with plot, setting/atmosphere and characterization (mostly). You are able to find inconsistencies, weak areas, points of confusion and detail-oriented mistakes.

If you find yourself frustrated by others repetitive phrasing, poor word choice, awkward sentences, bad grammar and a choppy narrative voice (among other things), then you can call yourself an amateur Stylistic Editor. Here you are most drawn to word-craft rather than story-craft and your abilities help a writer tighten up and clear up their language.

And if you find yourself hating those errant typos, mixed notations (like am, a.m., AM, A.M. for morning for 1 vs. one), the wrong version of a word/homophone (their, there, and they’re – you, your, you’re – affect vs. effect) and proper capitalizations and use of the elusive comma and apostrophe then you’d make a great Copy Editor or Proofreader.

What’s the difference between Copy Editing and Proofreading?

Copy Editing not only looks at the above mentioned items but they also pay close attention to manuscript formatting for either submission to agents or self-publishing for print/eBook.

Proofreading SHOULD consist of printing out the document in question and reading it for the above errors using either the traditional “red pen” or a highlighter. That document is then passed on to the writer who goes through and corrects those errors themselves.

However, many editors (and amateur or self-editors) are combining these services – often foregoing the printing out phase and just blending the types of mistakes they’re looking for altogether on the screen. Now, traditionally, you will find more mistakes on a printed page than you will on a computer screen but that doesn’t mean that errors won’t be caught if your editor (or you) don’t print out your book. It costs more money and many feel it wastes paper in a very environmentally conscious day-in-age.

Once you are able to honestly admit to yourself which type(s) of editing you’re best at, then you’ll know where you should gain extra help from others with your own writing. Besides, one good turn deserves another and by offering to help out a friend or colleague with their book they’re more likely to make the same offer to you.

Happy Editing!


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Categories: Editing

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