Edith, somewhere in southern Indiana
I’m delighted to have our good friend, independent editor Ramona DeFelice Long, as our
The Language of Editing
Consider these scenarios:
- You’ve finished the first draft of a novel.
- You’ve completed a short story.
- You’ve run your manuscript through beta readers.
- You’re in the middle of a manuscript and hit a wall.
- You’re considering self-publishing.
- You’re unsure if your 100 pages have enough story for a novel.
- You have interest from an agent and want your MS to be in its best shape possible.
The next sentence for all of these scenarios may be: Now consider hiring an independent editor.*
The question after that sentence may be: How do I know which type of independent editor to hire?
It is ironic that, in a job focused on word choice, nuance, and precision, the terms used about self-employed professional editors can be confusing. There is no helpful glossary in the back of an Editing 101 textbook—because there is no Editing 101 textbook. A person cannot go to college and earn a Bachelors of Editing degree.
Even the terms to describe editing itself are not set in stone. This is what I call editing in practice:
Editing – Editing is what a professional, paid person does when they examine a writer’s manuscript.
Revision – Revision is what a writer does when he/she works over his/her own draft of a manuscript.
Critique – Critique is what a fellow writer does to a peer’s work.
By my definitions, “self-editing” is a misnomer but “self-reviser” doesn’t have much of a ring to it, does it?
Job descriptions for the various types of independent editors can be confusing, too.
Stop dreaming that dream. While editors do cross over, different editors perform different functions at different stages of a manuscript. This is true for the staff at a traditional publishing house, and it is true for independents. Each step of editing requires a particular skill set.
Below is a lexicon to help writers who wish to collaborate with an independent editor.
Content/Developmental Editor – examines the manuscript for structure, appeal, story logic, effectiveness of scenes, character development, flow, plotting, genre expectations, etc. A developmental editor reads for the big picture of the story—Is it logical, pleasing, and publishable?—and will make suggestions designed to create a stronger overall manuscript. Content/developmental editors work with works in progress (WIPS) as well as completed drafts.
Copyeditor – Copyeditors check tense, POV, sentence structure, redundancy, readability, character and scene consistency. A copyeditor will also fact check. A copy edit will aim for clean copy, which means removing errors in spelling, grammar, style and syntax, as well as technical errors such as typos, missed words, and punctuation flubs.
NOTE: Copyeditors and Line Editors are often combined as one skill.
Proofreader – a person who reads a manuscript to catch technical errors. Sometimes a skilled amateur, a proofreader may work for pay or by barter.
Ghost Writer – an anonymous person who writes a book which is credited to someone else as author.
Writing Coach – a mentor who provides guidance to a writer beyond reviewing manuscripts
Beta Reader – not a professional editor and so works without pay, usually for barter. A beta reader is a skilled reader with genre familiarity, who examines the draft of a manuscript and offers a critique.
Reviewer – not an editor, but a person—professional or amateur—who shares his/her opinion of a book after it is published via trade journals, periodicals, newspapers, review sites, blogs, booksellers (Amazon & B&N).
And now for some lagniappe terms about editing:
Turnaround Date – the date you can expect the return of your edited manuscript. If an editor posts a turnaround time of one month, that’s how long the editing job will take. A writer should always ask for, in writing, a turnaround date.
Track Changes – the easy-for-editors, tedious-for-writers editing system built into Microsoft Word.
Style sheet – a publisher’s list of preferred style and syntax choices.
Acknowledgement – the “thank you” a writer includes in a published work. Some editors require a permission to be acknowledged.
Pilcrow – the paragraph mark (¶) is used in copyediting to note a new paragraph. In Microsoft Word, a pilcrow sign appears in the tool bar. Clicking on the pilcrow shows every hidden space in a manuscript. A space between words gets a dot. A return gets a pilcrow mark. The pilcrow helps you find unnecessary spaces you can’t see. Many writers have no idea this useful function is available.
Now back to the questions at the top of the page. If you are in one of these scenarios, do you understand which type of independent editor you need to hire?
Extra credit: Did you know about the pilcrow?
*Disclaimer: I work as an independent editor. I also hire independent editors for my writing.
Readers: Stop in and ask Ramona questions! And how did you do on the quiz?