informationWhy pay for an editor or proofreader?

Below are some editing and proofreading FAQs and my reasons why I think it makes sense to use a professional copy-editor, proofreader or designer to get your books or documents ready for publication. If you’d like to ask anything else, please get in touch.

Real examples of editing

See how editing can make a difference to your writing by looking at some real examples of work by members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).

I’m good at spelling so I have checked the text myself

It’s notoriously difficult to spot mistakes or weak points in your own writing because your brain sees what you know it should say rather than what it does say. Likewise, we all get accustomed to our own bad habits and quirks. Independent editors read your text with a fresh eye and with your reader in mind. Importantly, proofreading and copy-editing are skilled tasks that involve much more than simply checking for spelling mistakes. An editor can also check, for example, grammar, punctuation, the structure of your text, whether it is suitable for your audience, consistency and style, factual accuracy, cross-references and illustration captions, and can mark up your text ready for typesetting or printing.

I have a computer spellchecker

Spellcheckers are great for drawing attention to obvious errors and mistyped words, but beware of relying on this method. Despite recent advances in technology, your computer is just a machine. It doesn’t know that you meant to write about the great sight you saw and not the great fight, or that your boss was imprudent, not impudent (all perfectly acceptable to the spellchecker). If you have a habit of confusing there and their, the spellchecker won’t recognise when you’ve used the wrong one. And grammar checkers… don’t go there!

Mistakes can be costly

You checked the flyer again and again, you’ve just had 1000 copies printed and… how could you have forgotten to add the contact telephone number? Now you have to write the number on each flyer, which looks very unprofessional, or get your material printed again. Having an editor proofread your text before printing can avoid such costly mistakes.

Are you reaching your target audience?

You know what you want to say, but is your message making sense to your reader? An editor can help you clarify what you want to say and find the right words to help make your writing reader-friendly.

Make best use of your time

You are great at what you do, but words may not be your strongest skill. Both proofreading and editing, when done properly, are skilled tasks that require time, experience and concentrated effort. Professional editors are trained to do the job quickly and efficiently. Why not use your own time, or the time of your employees, for what you do best, and leave the editing to a trained professional? When the pipes burst, most of us call a plumber. When it comes to writing, it makes sense to call on the person whose job it is to work with words.

A matter of style

If you are submitting your work to a publisher or a printer you will probably need to present it in a particular way, such as double-spaced, all headings in a particular style, references typed consistently, etc. or formatted for e-readers. This all takes time, especially if you are not an expert in using your computer software. A copy-editor applies these styles and rules as a matter of course and will probably do it quicker than you can. If you don’t have an existing style guide to follow, a good editor can make one for you, which you will then be able to use for future publications.

I already pay a design agency

Graphic designers make your work look great, but they’re paid to arrange the text you give them, not to edit it. They sometimes pick up obvious errors, but often don’t. It’s like expecting the plumber to notice if your electrical wiring is faulty.

First impressions count

You are looking for a service provider. Do you go to the person whose website is full of spelling mistakes and broken hyperlinks, or to the one who puts across a clear, simple and error-free message about what they can do for you? Likewise, sending out printed material that contains mistakes and inconsistencies will not inspire confidence. Marketing your services is hard enough – don’t let poor writing make it harder. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling or promoting – people will notice.

How long will it take?

A good editor can proofread about 3000 words of ‘normal’ text per hour and copy-edit around 2000 words per hour. Speed, however, depends on the complexity of the document and what needs to be done, which is why I will give you a free no-obligation estimate of price after assessing your work. I will let you know at the outset when I think I can fit your job into my schedule. I try to return short jobs as soon as possible but longer documents may need to wait for the next available slot.

What will it cost?

I often get asked something along the lines of “I need you to proofread my document. What will it cost?” You’re hoping for a straight answer, yes? However, it’s not that easy.

Consider this: “I need you to paint my kitchen. How much will it cost?” I could reply that kitchen painting costs £100. That’s great if I turn up on the job and find a brand new room, the paint pots all ready and all the preparation done. On the other hand, if I find that there are holes in the wall I need to fill, there are some cupboards in the wrong place that need to be moved first, and the client hasn’t picked any paint yet and needs help with that, you can see my £100 is not going to go so far.

It’s the same with editing and proofreading. The price of the job will depend on what state your document is in before I start, what needs to be done to get it into shape and which bits of the job you’d like to pay me for.

If you don’t have a big budget for your publications you might be worried that a professional editor or proofreader will cost too much. However, it usually works out as a small proportion of your overall costs, and money spent at this stage can prove to be money well spent in the long run. General guide prices are given for some of the services I provide, but the actual cost will always depend on an assessment of your document and editing time needed. Some editors charge more than me, some less. If you engage editors charging much less, check carefully that they have appropriate training or experience.

Further guidance is found in the SfEP suggested minimum rates at sfep.org.uk/resources/suggested-minimum-rates/