You may have been told by an instructor or supervisor that you need to edit your work before submitting it. Although many of us have heard this in educational and work settings, it’s not uncommon to wonder “What does an editor do, and what is involved in the editing process?”
The editing process refers to a number of levels of editing, including substantive or developmental editing, copyediting, line editing, and proofreading. However, some of these types of editing only occur in the publishing world and may not apply to the average person preparing a written document. Generally, an editor hired by an individual will improve the clarity and readability of the document, focusing on flow, grammar, word usage, spelling, punctuation, consistency, and style. Given the various types of editing and the unique editing styles of individual editors, you need to define your goals before having an editor review your document—this will help you decide what you’re looking for and which editor to choose.
If you’re writing a document for your job, you’ll need to know what your supervisor or other audiences of the document find to be important. For example, if the document will be presented to a person to help them make decisions, the use of bullet points may be useful; however, the use of bullet points may not be appropriate in all situations. The person you’re presenting the document to may want you to use a certain tone, style, or format. This will influence your choice of editor because you want to make sure the editor has experience with the style or format you need.
If you’re writing a document for a class you’re taking, you’ll need to review all guidelines provided by the instructor and your document will also likely need to abide by the style guide they require (e.g., APA Style, MLA Style). You also want to understand the formatting guidelines and provide this information to your editor. Your editor will review the document for flow, grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and can also make revisions related to the requirements of your instructor. Providing this information to your editor is thus important.
With the use of computers and software programs to edit documents, your editor will likely use Microsoft Track Changes to edit your document. This allows you to see every revision s/he makes and you can then choose to accept all of the changes or review the revisions individually. Your editor may also make comments within the document, such as citing an area that is unclear or a section that could be omitted. After you receive your edited document from the editor, you may have questions to ask the editor or want to discuss specific areas of your document. Most editors will be open to this communication. In summary, an editor will improve the readability of your document by making revisions to correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation as well as improving the flow and clarity. If you haven’t used an editor before, you may be surprised at how helpful a good editor is!