Why on earth do you need an editor?

Wide shot sunset over vineyard in Agia Roumeli

Flippantly, I’d love to say you should hire an editor because no one writes in perfect grammar the first time. But there’s something fundamentally wrong with that sentence—there’s no such thing as “perfect” grammar, is there? Something is either grammatical, or it’s not. The answer to why do you need an editor, then, is that editors have strong knowledge of grammar and aren’t afraid to use it.

Or is it? Editors do so much more than simply check your grammar. In fact, that’s typically the last phase in an author’s journey before publication.

What if you’re not ready for the grammatical assist yet? You’re not going to get much out of a copy edit if that’s the case, so why would you need an editor? I’m so glad you asked.

Why you should hire an editor

Editors are so much more than master grammarians. There are editors, like myself, who focus more on “book doctoring” (fixing up broken bits of manuscript or providing chunks of pertinent content and ideas to struggling authors) and developmental editing. These tasks are more big-picture and creative, and certainly do not primarily focus on sentence-level issues.

Foggy day on a golf course
Foggy day on a golf course—hard to take a shot when you can’t see where you’re going!

One of my favourite big-picture tasks as an editor is manuscript critique. I get to dive into a creative space and help string ideas together alongside my author. Essentially, I help clear away some of the fog so we can map a way forward. It’s kind of like advanced story boarding, with an expert’s knowledge of plot devices and writing techniques.

Other editors are dedicated to strengthening your prose. This includes working on phrasing, lengths of sentences, repetition, and ultimately (of course) your grammar. If you think of it like making a pie, think of this stage as getting the filling together so it’s consistent and delicious and makes someone want to take the next bite.

Editors Canada discusses professional editorial standards on this page if you want to learn a little more about what makes an editor worth their salt.

The goal of any editor is to bring out the strongest version of the text in front of us, no matter what stage it’s at. We are ever-so-careful of the suggestions and comments we make as we strive for better understanding of the material and its design. You have a goal in mind for this work and we’re the intermediary who helps you reach your target audience the most effectively.

Figuring out why you need an editor is actually the easy part. You need us because we’ll pump you up. We’ll educate and inform you on weaknesses and perceived bias. We’ll hold you accountable to your schedule and your revisions.

You need an editor because your friends and family won’t be able to give you as straight of an answer as you deserve.

More than that, you need someone who understands your struggles as an author. It’s incredibly hard to share your work sometimes, and we understand that. We know it’s a distinct privilege to be able to evaluate what you’ve created and help it grow.

How do I choose an editor

Editors come in all shapes, styles, and sizes—I like the Oxford comma, for example, and there are those who rage against it—and there is a fit out there for you. Find a person you trust to take your vision forward without losing your voice.

Trust is the kicker here. You trust us to handle your work with care and to provide accurate feedback. We trust you to be ready for it. This brings us back to fit: You’re not going to want to work with someone you don’t get along with and value.

Here are some basic criteria you can use to evaluate your editor’s fit:

  • Does the editor have formal training or many years of experience?
  • Do they work in your genre? Are they interested in your type of work?
  • What is their primary focus in editing? What niche do they serve best?
  • Do they have recommendations, examples of their work, or other types of industry reputation?
  • Are you comfortable communicating regularly with this person? In what ways? Do they offer those services?
  • Is there learning on-going? Do they attend seminars, conferences, webinars, or other events? Do they subscribe to style guides and other resources to keep current on ever-changing language rules? What kind of professional development do they do each year?
  • Do you like them?

The last one really might trump the others. You probably should like the person you’re hiring to review your submission. It’s shocking, I know, to learn that editors also like to work with people they like to work with… but in all honesty, the right fit is what leads to magic. Or chemistry. Or synergy. Or whichever word you like to use to describe a strong creative connection that leads to collaboration and results.

And you want results. You’re ready for results. Find the editor who can help you achieve what you want from your writing. After all, isn’t that why you’re hiring an editor in the first place?

You’re welcome to check out my Services page to get a better idea of the scope of work editors offer and decide on your best starting point from there.

Published by M Gardner

Editor and writing coach. I'm keen on helping establish and grow unique authorial voices for maximum impact in the reading world.

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