How Important is Editing?

A common mistake authors make is in choosing an editor.

Many give their manuscripts to friends and family (people who love them), then the author gets glowing feedback and praise. But this isn’t helpful other than it strokes the author”s ego.

Others give their manuscripts to former English teachers or to someone who’s come recommended by virtue of that person’s love of reading or love of books. While this may be more helpful than friends or family, it doesn’t help much unless that former English teacher or reader is a book editor.

What’s a book editor? The book publishing industry standard is the Chicago Manual of Style. If your editor isn’t following Chicago, you’re not getting the book editing you need in the book publishing industry.

There are many stylebooks available–in my university classes on strategic management,  I require students use APA (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association).  In my college classes on business writing, I require MLA (Modern Language Association). Journalists use AP (Associated Press).

With so many options, you’ll want to find an editor who uses Chicago rather than the other manuals.

Your book editor should edit for content (clarity, flow, etc.) and for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. You’ll pay a bit more for this expertise, but it’s worth it because books are in print a long time.

Your editor should never change your voice–especially if you’re paying for publication. We’ve hired editors who’ve tried to do that to our authors–editors who just rewrite content rather than verify the author’s intent. When that happens, we thank the editor, pay them at our expense, and start over with an editor who will question the author on points of clarity before rewriting the author’s words.

Remember that when you write, you are one-on-one with your reader. You are not speaking to the masses, but rather, you are communicating with one person at a time (your reader). Your reader cannot ask you what you mean, so you have to be sure you are as clear as you can be in your writing. This is often an issue with experts who know their subject matter well; they have a hard time not taking shortcuts in their writing. A good editor will question you about clarity or meaning or intent based on the reader’s point of view.

How important is editing? It is arguably the most important step in book publishing, so make sure you’re working with a book editor who’s well-versed in the Chicago Manual of Style if you want a professionally edited book.

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1 Response to “How Important is Editing?”


  1. 1 Fay April 13, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    I know from my experience with Sharron editing my book that it would be impossible for me to do it myself.

    1. My grammar and punctuation are very rusty.
    2. Even if your grammar and punctuation are at an expert level it is still different then the Chicago Manual of Style.
    3. When you write a book you get so close to it and you know all the background of your story, your reader does not and it is very easy to not be clear.

    I really needed Sharron’s expert eye and attention to detail to make my book the best it could be. You may not like what she tells you but she is right and the expert at this part of getting your book published as something you will be proud of.


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