Do I Need an Editor?

The better question is: What type of editing do I need?

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: every writer needs someone to proof his or her work. When you’re overly familiar with the text, it’s too easy to blindly read right over punctuation errors, typos and other mistakes. I do it all the time. More than likely you’ll find one in this article, even after I’ve proofed it several times – and I’m a professional editor!

Fortunately, editors and proofreaders don’t charge a flat rate. There are several different types of editing, and editing fees vary depending on the level of assistance the manuscript requires. The three types of editing services I offer my clients are explained below.

Editing vs. Proofreading

There is a difference between editing and proofreading. An editor corrects a writer’s manuscript. A proofreader makes the final review of a document or manuscript that is ready for print or publication, checking for errors missed in the editing process. But I’m not fussy about using these two terms interchangeably. I don’t care if you call me an editor or call me a proofreader – just call me!

The following are brief descriptions of technical, substantive and deep editing (different people use different terms for these services). They are not exhaustive definitions, but merely offer a basic idea of what each involves.

  • Technical Editing is checking for misspellings, capitalization, errors in punctuation, missing or repeated words, typos, problems with subject-verb agreement, incorrect or awkward word usage (e.g. lay vs. lie, compliment vs. complement), and correct sums in in charts and tables.
  • Substantive Editing includes all the technical aspects listed above but also improves clarity and addresses issues with structure and organization. Some examples of substantive editing are correcting errors in grammar, reducing the use of passive voice, replacing repeated words/phrases with a variety of appropriate alternatives, reducing or eliminating slang, clichés and potentially offensive words or phrases, reducing wordy sentences, ensuring for parallel structure among elements, deleting irrelevant material, moving incorrectly placed text, modifying titles for clarity, and pointing out when citations require sources.
  • Deep Editing typically involves rewriting portions of the text. Writers for whom English is a second language quite often need deep editing to correct the translation or use of words, clichés, and jargon and improve clarity to meaning that can be misconstrued in different cultures and languages. Deep editing also involves making complex ideas more reader-friendly by minimizing the academic, scientific or legal language to make the text more accessible to unfamiliar readers while retaining the writer’s ideas and voice.

No matter how good a writer you are, there’s always room for improvement, either with the technical aspects or with clarity. However, an editor only makes suggestions. It’s your work and you have the final say in what stays and what goes.

Still not sure if you need an editor? Contact me and we’ll figure it out together. I tell my clients two things: it’s my job to make them look good and if it ain’t broke, I’m not going to fix it.


Yes, God loves you, but thou shalt not use an apostrophe incorrectly.

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