Not “One Size Fits All”: Understanding the Roles of Editors

Working with an editor is a beneficial way to refine your writing and ensure your content serves its intended purpose. But not all editors are “one size fits all.”

In a recent article, Kathy Edens explains the roles that editors can play. Just as the writing process has a number of stages (drafting, revising, polishing), the roles of editors vary depending upon what stage of the writing process a writer is in.

Developmental editors, for instance, see the big picture. They focus on the content of a manuscript or text and determine overarching items that need reworking. “A developmental edit,” Edens explains, “usually ends in some rewriting, rearranging, and even deleting entire chapters. Your editor will write tons of notes on what’s working and what needs to change.” With my services, I offer Story Critiques to guide writers on how they can improve such areas as a manuscript’s plot and story arc, characters, pacing, voice, and style.

The next role editors play is copy editing. “If you have the bigger picture items under control,” Edens states, “then you need an editor who can look at paragraph level details like transitions, rhythm, and excessive wordiness.” Copy editors focus on the style and language of a manuscript or text. They clarify meaning, eliminate jargon, and fine-tune the wording to convey a congruent message. I offer Stylistic Editing for writers who seek this type of editor. At a more advanced level, copy editing can also include improving the flow and organization of a piece of writing. This editing, often called line editing, improves the copy’s structure, consistency, and transitions. My Comprehensive Editing covers these areas.

Lastly, a writer in the final stages of writing may seek a proofreader. In the traditional sense, proofreaders focus only on grammar and syntax. Edens explains that proofreaders are just as important in the editing process as are developmental editors and copy editors. “You want to present your best work to readers. They’re pretty savvy and will point out any errors or discrepancies they find, no matter how small,” Eden notes.

Regardless at what stage of writing you choose to work with an editor, it’s essential to do your homework and to also understand the relationship you’ll have with your editor. “Understand that you’re paying this person to give you constructive ways to improve your book,” Edens explains. “Your editor’s sole purpose is to critique your work, not pat you on the back.”

That being said, working with an editor is a rewarding experience that will ensure your manuscript or text will be the best it can be before reaching readers’ eyes. In many ways, a good editor’s knowledge, skill, and expertise are irreplaceable.

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