Today I’m answering the last question in my FAQs series: Why do I need an editor? It’s rare that I actually get this question phrased this way, but the underlying inquiry remains. I’ve found that there are really two levels to this question. The first level is something along the lines of, “Why does anybody other than me need to read my manuscript before I publish it?” The second level is something to the effect of, “Why do I need to hire a professional editor? My friends have read my manuscript and think it’s fine; isn’t that enough?”
So, for the first level… The short answer is that it is always a good idea to have somebody else read your work–and this is as true for me and other editors as it is for authors. (As an example, I have my darling husband read all of my blogs to make sure I didn’t miss anything.) It’s very challenging for anybody to make an unbiased evaluation of their own writing. As writers, we know what we’re trying to say and what words we intended to use. We might be able to catch some misspellings and incorrect commas–though it’s very challenging for a single person to catch all errors in a manuscript; it’s definitely a case of the more eyes and the more reviews, the better–but it’s highly unlikely that we’ll realize it if our meaning doesn’t come across clearly or if what we’ve written could be interpreted another way. Maybe we’ve alluded to something that isn’t actually common knowledge, but we think it is. Maybe we’ve skipped a step in our logic or in the plot, forgetting that our readers aren’t inside our head and might not be able to fill in that missing piece. Or maybe we’ve said something in a way that could come across as offensive, but we have no idea because we did not mean it that way when we wrote it. These are all distinct possibilities we face as writers that make it vital for us to have somebody else read our work before we publish it for the world.
The question then becomes why anybody needs to hire a professional editor as opposed to just giving a manuscript to friends or family to review. The most honest answer I can give is that any eyes are better than none. If it’s a case where it’s got to be an author’s friend or family member reading a manuscript or nobody at all, it is the vastly better option to have that friend or family member read the manuscript. There are distinct advantages to hiring a professional, however, the first being that–as with most things in life–it’s just a better idea to have somebody trained in a specific job or skill performing that function than somebody who is not trained. For example, I think we’d all prefer to have a trained stylist or barber cut our hair rather than somebody who has never given anybody a haircut. We don’t particularly want to take our clothes to a tailor who’s never threaded a needle. And we probably wouldn’t have somebody clean our homes who had never touched a sponge. In the same way, it’s preferable to have your manuscript cut, tailored, and cleaned up by somebody who knows even the most minute rules of language (or knows when to look them up), who has worked with many manuscripts in the same genre before and thus knows what distinguishes a good story from a great one, and who has specifically committed him- or herself to taking the time and putting in the effort to make your manuscript exceptional. Professional editors take great pride in their work; editing is not a field that people enter for the money, but rather one that people enter because they have a passion for and extensive knowledge of language. When you hire a professional editor, both you and your manuscript benefit from that passion, that knowledge, and that commitment to excellence. And that is why all authors need an editor.
And that also concludes the FAQ blog series! Please let me know if you’ve got any other questions you’d like to see me answer by posting in the comments or sending me a message. Otherwise, enjoy the rest of July, and I’ll see you next time!