Guest author and editor Sigrid Macdonald is joining us on Fiction Scribe today to talk about subjects important to writers. Her first piece is one she is particularly passionate about – why you should hire a professional copy editor. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming her.
Many seasoned writers, myself included, balk at the idea of hiring a copy editor. We’ve been writing for years; we know grammar and sentence structure. Why put out good money to have someone else do exactly what we can do? Or worse – the editor may want to change our voice, our style and our tone. Who needs that? You do!
Whether you are brand-new to writing or you’re an old pro, there are two very good reasons why you shouldn’t edit your own work.
One. To err is human, but to forgive is unlikely in the publishing world! We all make mistakes. Unless you’re a machine, chances are good that you’ll make errors along the way, and you won’t always recognize them. Typos are easy to miss and sometimes they’re quite embarrassing.
You’ve just finished a short story and you’re thrilled. Then you receive a call from a friend who says she got a good laugh out of the part that said the demonic neighbor in your horror piece was “a paint in the neck.” Duh! How did that happen? You read it over at least five times, but somehow your brain skipped that part, and your spell-check missed it because paint is spelled properly.
There was an interesting blurb that used to circulate on e-mail, which strung letters together. It looked like gibberish at first, but then it made sense. It went something like this: ifucnredthsthnknenglshtechr. Did that take you long to figure out? Probably not. That’s because our mind expects to see certain characters and fills in the blanks. In the sentence, “I went to school house,” we often see the preposition “the,” even though it’s not there.
Two. You don’t know everything. I just pointed out how easy it is to miss mistakes that you already know. What about things you don’t know?
Some people have trouble conjugating the verb “to be,” particularly in the subjunctive (when to use “if I were” and when to use “if I was”).
Other people have problems with the word “like.” Today, my mothers said to me, “I feel like a bowl of soup.” I replied, “You don’t look like a bowl of soup,” and she grimaced. Ordinarily the family grammarian, my mother would have been better off saying, “I feel like having a bowl of soup” unless indeed she felt wet, warm and slushy.
A professional editor not only has the objectivity that you will certainly lack after spending dozens, if not hundreds, of hours on an article or manuscript, but she or he will also know the rules of grammar that you don’t know because ideally, she relies on a style guide, which tells her exactly where to place a comma or how to capitalize a certain term. It’s great to have friends and colleagues review your manuscript in its early stages, but if you’re serious about publication, do yourself a favor and hire a professional for the final edit.
Sigrid Macdonald is the author of two books and many published articles, and a copy editor. She does line-by-line editing as well as substantive editing for short stories, fiction, and erotica, as well as query letters, book proposals and manuscript critiques, and can be contacted through her blog at