Editing is a process where the editor goes over the manuscript line by line, pointing out areas that need attention. These might be awkward phrasings, grammatical errors, missing quote marks, or numerous other things that make the manuscript less readable.
Most editors will ask to see the first twenty pages of your manuscript before they agree to accept the job. Sometimes, significant issues will need to be addressed. If so, an editor will probably refuse to accept your manuscript. However, they will tell you why and give you pointers on how to resolve the problems.
This is because freelance editors book projects in advance and can’t take on manuscripts that will bog them down for months.
During the editing process, some editors will generate a word-frequency report. Also, a style sheet will be developed for usages and unique spellings that may pertain to your manuscript. Check your email regularly because most editors will want to verify the spelling of names, invented words, and common words that may differ from standard usages to create that style sheet.
Be prepared—the editor will ask questions regularly as they come up. You must respond promptly to enable the editor to meet your agreed-upon deadline.
Conversely, most editors respond to your questions as soon as they receive your email. If your editor doesn’t respond in a timely fashion, you need to find out why. On rare occasions, you may need to find a different editor.
For new and beginning authors, it may take an editor more than one trip through a manuscript to straighten out all the kinks. This may be a three-step process involving you making the first round of revisions and/or explanations, sending them back to the editor, who will make final round of suggestions. At that point, the editor is done. You have the choice to either accept or reject those suggestions in your final manuscript.
In academic writing, editing involves looking at each sentence carefully and ensuring that it’s well designed and serves its purpose. In scholastic editing, every instance of grammatical dysfunction must be resolved.
A client’s future depends on the quality of their finished dissertation as much as it does the content. Their work will be measured by the standards of their department head and the academic world in general.
For creative writing, editing is a stage of the writing process. A writer and editor work together to improve a draft by correcting punctuation and making words and sentences clearer, more precise. Weak sentences are made stronger, info dumps are weeded out, and important ideas are clarified. At the same time, strict attention is paid to the overall story arc.
The editor is not the author. Editors can only suggest revisions, but ultimately all changes must be approved and implemented by the author.
Some editors return your manuscript with suggestions for revisions noted in the reviewing pane on the right-hand side of the document. You click on each comment, then choose to make that change or not, and then delete the comment.
This is the least confusing way for new authors, but it takes more time for the editor to work their way through the manuscript. This is how a manuscript with comments in the reviewing pane might look:
Editors who have been in the business for a long time find it much faster to use the markup function and insert inline changes. A new author or someone unfamiliar with how word-processing programs work might find it confusing and difficult to understand.
Inserting the changes and using Tracking cuts the time an editor spends on a manuscript. Writing comments takes time, and suggestions may not always be clear to the client.
Tracked changes are only SUGGESTED changes. To become permanent, they must be accepted. You may disagree with some of the tracked changes and choose to reject them. Below are the instructions for accepting and rejecting comments, followed by instructions for deleting comments made in the comment column.
If an editor has to insert many changes, they can become distracting to the author. Many editors use both inserted changes and comments when that is the case.
Word has several ways to customize how tracked changes appear:
- Simple Markup: This shows the final version without inline markups. Red or black markers will appear in the left margin to indicate where a change has been made.
- All Markup: This shows the final version with inline
- No Markup: This shows the final version and hides all markups.
- Original: This shows the original version before changes and hides all markups.
Places where an editor inserts a suggested change will be shown in a red font and have a line beneath them. Deleted items will be in red and have a line through them.
To accept or reject changes:
- Select the change you want to accept or reject.
- From the Review tab, click the Accept or Reject
- The markup will disappear, and MSWord will automatically jump to the next change. You can continue accepting or rejecting each change until you have reviewed all of them.
- Click the Track Changes command to turn off Track Changes when you’re finished. Just click on it, and the gray will return to the same shade as the rest of the ribbon.
- To accept all changes at once, click the Accept drop-down arrow, then select Accept All.
- If you no longer want to track your changes, you can choose to Accept All and Stop Tracking.
How to Remove comments
If your document has comments, they won’t be removed from the comment column when you accept or reject tracked changes. You’ll have to delete them separately.
- On the Review tab, in the Comments section, click Next to select a comment.
- On the Review tab, click Delete.
To delete all comments at once, click the arrow below the word Delete, and then click Delete All Comments in Document.
To turn off the Reviewing Pane:
Those changes are not permanent or engraved in stone. All you have to do is use the Track Changes function and click accept or reject for each change.
Some editors offer a separate report detailing their overall impressions of your manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses. Others will want to talk via the phone or Zoom.
Hiring a freelance editor is well worth the cost if you can afford it. You will learn many things about the craft of writing as you look at their suggestions.
However, many authors don’t have the money to hire an editor. If that is the case, you may have a friend in your writing group who has some experience editing, and they will often help you at no cost. Your writing group is a well of inspiration, support, and wisdom, and they are invested in your book. They want you to succeed and most will gladly trade services.
Each editor is different and has their own style and approach to the task. But no matter how they approach the task of editing, all editors are readers who love what they do.
Editors want to help you make your manuscript as clean as possible because they love books. Next up, we will talk about what editors for publications look for when they are acquiring new work.