Everyone needs a proofreader or editor. It is not only novels that need a fresh pair of eyes to catch mistakes. Anything written that is important to you and your reputation, such as corporate communications, product packaging, presentations or reports, should have a professional review it for errors.
When you hire a rock-star proofreader or editor (and if you do not know the difference, check out my blog post: How Does Proofreading Work and How Does Editing Work), the reality of working with that person may be different than what you expected. In my experience with clients, I have found four reasons why the reality of working with an editor is different than what the client expected. Read on to learn more about the reality of working with a professional proofreading or editing service.
It Will Take Longer Than You Realize
Sure, some material like a promotional email sent to your customers will not take an editor or proofreader as long to check as, say, an eight-page report. However, proofreading and editing take
longer than running a simple spell-checking software program, accepting and rejecting any changes that pop up on a screen. Proofreading and editing services are hands-on businesses similar to making a craft cocktail.
Also, consider these three reasons why a proofreader or editor will take longer to deliver a final piece to you:
- Unless you have expressly required the proofreader to be your sole client and have their undivided attention and paid time, they may not proof or edit the written work the second you push the send or share button. If you believe you are paying too much and are deserving of more time, do not assume your contractor knows this. Talk to your proofreader and editor about expectations and how much work and response time you expect if they do not meet your needs.
- The quality of the piece to be edited matters. Thankfully I have never had a client who was a lousy writer. Most people have a good grasp of English grammar and spelling and turn over material that is nearly perfect to me. That said, most clients have overworked themselves, are brain drained, or are not perfect. They still have many mistakes that need correcting, no matter how good a writer they are or think they are. Even if you believe you have turned in the perfect writing and need a spelling or grammar check, in reality, you will be surprised at the errors a professional proofreader or editor will find.
- The importance of the piece matters. If you employed a proofreader or editor worth their merit, they would understand how important your work is to your reputation. Even if the writing is sent internally, a first draft or the reading audience is limited, every piece of writing matters to your credibility and reputation. And, a good proofreader or editor will treat your work with just as much care as you would your work, and sometimes more. So, in reality, if your proofreader or editor takes longer than you think they should on revising your work, they are just making sure the piece not only has their “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed, they will give it the attention it deserves to save your reputation.
You Will Need More Than You Think
Common misunderstandings occur between the expectations of a client and what the proofreader and editor deliver because most people do not know how proofreading and editing differ and what each is supposed to provide.
Generally, most people do not see beyond fixing mistakes in grammar, spelling and punctuation. Most proofreaders fix these mistakes and sometimes more. So, for example, if you employ a proofreader in the beginning stages of your writing, you will end up with writing clean of any grammar, spelling or punctuation errors. Still, you may see awkward sentences, subjects and verbs not agreeing, or writing that does not make sense to an average reader.
It is good to understand what each professional does, and then outline what your writing requires. This way, you will not be disappointed when you pay for a service and do not get what you expected. A good read to understand the differences in the levels of proofreading and editing services can be found on the Northwest Editors Guild website here: What Kind of Editor Do I Need?
Take an honest look at what role you want your proofreader or editor to fulfill. For example, if you want the proofreader to fact-check or make sure links in text send your reader to the correct website, let them know before the job kicks off. Do not blame them for your misses if you did not communicate what you needed them to do before starting the work.
It’s More Collaborative
Wouldn’t it be nice to email your writing that needs editing or proofreading, and then it magically comes back to you clean and polished? Kind of like driving through an automatic car wash? Yes, spell-checking software can do this, but if you have ever used these software programs, the programs always offer suggested changes that do not make sense to any human reader.
Do not expect to email a file to your proofreader and editor, and they will magically know what to do with it. Working collaboratively with your editor or proofreader works well so you are ensured you have the best work done for you.
It is helpful to provide your contractor with background information on why the writing is important to you and who the readers will be. The writing will probably go through several revisions and requires you to approve or reject any suggested changes the proofreader or editor has made.
When you employ a proofreader or editor, be sure you are comfortable with whatever sharing software you chose to use. Typically, proofreaders and editors work with Microsoft Word’s Track Changes. For a good tutorial on using this feature, check out Erin Wright’s tutorial: How To Use Track Changes.
If you are using other software, you will need to ensure the contractor knows how to navigate it. Always send a test message to make sure the proofreader or editor not only receives the file but can successfully open and work on it.
The best part of providing proofreading and editing services is working hand-in-hand with professionals interested in making their work look spectacular. Working closely with someone on their craft is like building a friendship. Often, I am the first person to read a writer’s work, which can be a vulnerable stage for someone. Making people shine and working collaboratively with clients is the best part of my job.
It’s a Thoughtful Hiring Process
For businesses and authors, make sure to hire a professional if you are expecting to see great results. Of course, we all know someone who has a knack and love for proofreading or editing. Heck, I started this way. But when I decided to do it professionally, I was overwhelmed with how much I needed to catch up on how the English language has changed since I last studied it.
Professionals will also have handy advice on navigating essential tools in the real world, such as sharing software, publishing tips and formatting online, since they work with it daily. Finally, a professional contractor will treat your writing thoughtfully, not just as a side hustle or helping out a friend.
If you are a business looking for a proofreader or editor, hiring someone with knowledge of the working world is best. So, my hiring tips for finding a professional proofreader or editor include someone who can:
- Understand deadlines.
- Empathize with the importance of the work you do. It is always the “golden” hire to find someone who takes your job just as seriously as you, if not more.
- Play well with others. Consider your editor or proofreader a part of the team, and introduce them to the people who will be writing the work they will be correcting and changing. A proofreader or editor needs a proper introduction to the team as an assistant, not an adversary. No one wants to have their work corrected by someone they do not know, or someone they think has ill intentions.
If you are in a particular industry, such as academics or science, hiring someone with an education in your field is also good. Also, be aware if you are writing in a language outside the native language of the proofreader or editor.
It is not always necessary to hire someone who knows your business. For example, I serve clients in a wide variety of industries. With industries I am not familiar with, I can clear up confusion for some readers because I start asking questions like what abbreviations stand for or eliminating in-house jargon.
If you are an author serious about making your work look great and free of mistakes, you will want to hire a professional proofreader and editor. Unfortunately, I often see first-time authors struggle with paying for this service since publishing a book seems to be stacked with one expense on top of another. However, you do not want all of your hard work to go down the drain when readers give you horrible reviews because the book was rife with errors.
Look for an editor that specializes in your book’s genre. For example, I can pitch in on young-adult fantasy, but since I don’t read or are familiar with these types of books, I will miss many style choices that a more experienced editor in this genre might catch.
In reality, hiring an editor or proofreader is a thoughtful process. Authors should first write down what they need, the word count, and a list of tasks they want the editor and proofreader to perform.
When you interview a potential editor or proofreader, make sure your personalities work well together. You will be working collaboratively, possibly for an extended time, so make sure you get along with the contractor.
A proofreader or editor should always put your interests first. They should not want to change your style but improve it. They should want to see you succeed and be supportive throughout the process.
Hiring a professional editor or proofreader is the best option if you are serious about making your writing clean and polished. Unfortunately, the proofreading and editing processes are not as simple as running the words through a spell checker.
In reality, working with an editor or proofreader will:
- Take longer than you think to get the job done right.
- Require more than just checking for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, no matter how clean you think the writing is.
- Start and finish as a collaborative process.
- Entail hiring someone you want to work with and outlining expectations.
The best benefit of hiring an editor or a proofreader is that they are human! They are not a robot that simply gets the job done. A solid professional will want to help you, make you look the best you can.
If you are ready to hire a professional human to proofread or edit your content, please reach out to me to talk more about what you need and how I can help you.