But What Does an Editor Do, Really?
- Content editing (sometimes referred to as stylistic editing).
Means ensuring the content is presented logically and smoothly with a tone and
vocabulary appropriate for the target audience and in keeping with the client's
directions. It also means avoiding repetition unless identified as needed for
wrap-up reviews, particular emphasis, or to be consistent with a format already
set as the preferred standard.
- Substantive editing (sometimes referred to as structural
editing). Means reviewing, re-thinking, re-organizing, re-shaping, and
re-writing as required. If needed, it's usually done along with the content
- Copyediting (checking grammar, spelling, punctuation, and
consistency of practice). This is what most people think of when they hear the
term "Editor." Actually, it's usually the second-last step in the copy review
process. It requires a very fine eye for detail, an excellent memory,
extraordinary patience, knowledge of the house style (which means whatever
standard the client has declared is "the standard"), and familiarity with the
conventions being used (e.g., Canadian vs. American vs. British spellings and
- Proof-reading (sometimes referred to as proofing). Refers to
the last step in the copy-prep process. Means final read-throughs to make sure
the copy is correct in all respects. There are two kinds: Reading for sense (Is
the copy actually saying what it is meant to say?) and reading for errors
(comparing the final product with the final, approved manuscript). It's
particularly valued in these days of automated correction programs. Should it
be hoard or horde? spill or spell? weird or wired? prescribed or proscribed?
queen or Queen? A good proof-reader will catch, query, and
- Project management (sometimes referred to as project editing)
means pulling together and running the team needed to prepare any work for
publication. It involves identifying the different skill sets needed, finding
the people with those skill sets, briefing them about the job, setting out the
overall schedule, monitoring quality, briefing the client as needed, and,
finally, bringing the project in on time and on budget. Simple,