Working Together

An editor can be a tremendous help in polishing and perfecting a document for publication. Every writer needs an editor—even Ernest Hemingway had some help from Gertrude Stein! But to get the best out of the process, there are a few important things to remember. Here’s a quick guide to working with me.

My editorial philosophy. My goal in the editorial process is to ensure clarity and grammatical correctness while remaining committed to preserving an author’s tone and style. I enhance language wherever possible, and when working with authors whose first language is not English, ensure idiomatic usage and narrative flow.

Initial review. I’ll ask you to send a sample of your work—the whole document if it’s available, or a minimum of 10 pages. I’ll use this to gauge the work required and the amount of time it’ll take, and return a proposal with this information. If your sample is from a longer work, I’ll ask for a sample from the middle to help get the best sense of the work as a whole. (If your interest is in developmental editing, I’ll need to see as much of the text as possible to accurately gauge the scope of the project.) At this stage, you’ll want to answer these questions:

  1. What level of editing are you looking for? I’ll recommend a type of edit in my proposal, but information from you about what kind of guidance you’re seeking is also important.
  2. What style guide does the work require? There are many, and their recommendations can vary widely, so it’s important to know this at the outset. Your academic department may require a particular style, or if you are submitting a work for publication, you’ll want to be sure the document is edited to the publication’s style. Some departments and organizations also have internal style guides. I’ll want to know about all of these.
  3. What word processing program and platform will the file be sent in? Are there any compatibility issues to resolve?
  4. Is there anything else I should know about the document—a short or urgent deadline, special directions, or other unusual considerations?

Setting a schedule. As part of the initial agreement, we’ll agree on a deadline or a set of deadlines for the project. For longer works, we’ll want to set a series of deadlines to keep the project manageable. If you are working with a designer or other third parties, such as an indexer or web designer, we’ll also coordinate schedules with them.

Working together. With your completed draft in hand, editing can begin. At this point, it’s very important that you send a single, final file to ensure version control.

Unless we’ve made other arrangements (such as, for example, using Acrobat to mark up a pdf file), I’ll use Word’s Track Changes feature to make changes and comments in the file. Here’s a screen shot of a marked-up document:

Word’s Track Changes feature is fairly intuitive. This tool allows you to review and accept individual changes, or accept all changes in the document. You’ll want to avoid making changes to a file while I’m working on it, because if you do, you won’t easily be able to incorporate them into the final, carefully edited file. In addition, any changes you make won’t have the benefit of editing and thus may contain typos or errors. If you do make changes and then resend the file to me, I’ll need to treat the new file as a new project, which means charging for all work completed on the previous file as well as the new file.

Final review. Some projects can be completed without a final review stage. However, be careful: taking the time to edit while neglecting a final proofread will undermine the benefits of the process. You don’t want a well-organized, elegantly written document to be riddled with typos that crept in during the design process or as several reviewers made many small changes.

If there are queries in your document, such as changes or additions I’ve suggested you make, a second review may be warranted. We’ll discuss this when establishing an initial project schedule. If you’re submitting a paper or manuscript for publication, you’ll want to ensure the final version is error-free.

For longer projects requiring a developmental edit or a thorough copyedit, as well as projects involving a design team, at least one additional review will generally be necessary. A final review can usually be completed in much less time than a development edit or copyedit, and it’s always a good idea.