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How to Find a Manuscript Editing Service

Updated on August 31, 2012

Authors looking for an editing service for their manuscript, used to have to chose someone locally or from an ad in a trade journal. Now it ought to be easier than ever to find someone to edit your book, CV or proposal. The problem now is that most writers do not know what to look for, and may well hire the wrong type of editor for the project they have in mind.

Newer authors are usually unfamiliar with the difference between a copy editor and a proofreader. Looking on the Internet for an editing service they may, for example, choose a proofreader because they are cheaper, but really need copy editing.

This article describes the differences between proofreading, copy editing, and a deep manuscript editing, and also discusses opportunities for authors to get some critiquing or mentoring.

Proofreading and Editing Service


Proofreading is the lightest type of editing - it occurs at the end of the writing and editing process, just prior to publication. In traditional publishing houses, after the manuscript has gone through the editing process, it is ready to be formatted and printed as a galley or pageproof. This is when the proofreader comes in.

The proofreader is expected to compare the galley copy with the original manuscript, checking word for worn for accuracy. A proofreader is often the last set of editing eyes that look at a "final" version of the work. The proofreader is expected to pick up the mistakes that somehow made it through the previous edits without detection.

Proofreaders do not make substantive changes. If the proofreader has any inclinations or talents for creativity or critical thinking, they will check them at the door. The successful proofreader will find those skills confusing or irrelevant to the proofreading task.

Proofreading does look for obvious errors in areas like spelling and punctuation, but they typically do not delete much or make any changes to the work that could be disputed. Proofreading catches obvious mistakes. As such, it does not require an advanced English degree or much specialized training, and the reimbursement is commensurately lower.

Copy Editing Service

The copy editor works with the manuscript itself rather than a galley or final pageproof. Copy editing still looks at the more straightforward issues like spelling, punctuation and grammar, but copy editing is also about making the manuscript clear. The copy editor sees to it that the author's work is concise and consistent, correct and complete.

A copy editing service will clarify any of the manuscripts awkward or fuzzy phrasing. While the copy editor is free to make more substantive changes, they would not do so without querying the author first. Factual errors are corrected by copy editing, and style inconsistencies are addressed in this type of manuscript editing.

Indeed, the copy editor is tasked with developing a style sheet, and it is at the copy editing stage that any outstanding design issues are remedied, and the manuscript is made ready for printing, at least in a galley like format, that the proofreader then tackles.

Deep or Heavy Editing

The most difficult editing, and the best paid editors are not working line by line, but rather the focus on improving the quality and flow of the writing. This more creative and critical editing can and does make significant changes to the earlier version(s) of the manuscript. This has some similarities to critiquing, but a deep editing service is less didactic and more pragmatic.

The editor with this charge will make deeper cuts and changes, deleting or moving whole sentences and paragraphs. These editors will make changes that address tone, characters, structure, pace and redundancy. Editing at this level also makes sure that the writing is in good taste and does not raise any legal difficulties.

Critiquing, Developmental Editing, and Mentoring Writers

It is actually still possible, if you are willing to look to find published authors who will critique your work, or edit in with developmental editing that is aimed at improving the writer's overall writing. For example, Charlotte Hughes, an award winning author with several best sellers to her credit, has an manuscript editing service where she does occasional critiques of books and proposals by aspiring authors.

Finding a mentor is an important component of developing an author's craft. Often your local writer's group will give an author feedback, but authors who manage to connect with someone who has an ear for what works will learn the most rapidly.

Photo credit: Quill by Kazarelth

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