Tips on Editing: Part 1


Tips on Editing: Part 1
What is Editing?
By Nancy Carty Lepri

How many of us have delved into a good book only to find typos and/or glaring mistakes? I know it has happened to me on several occasions and with well-known authors. It makes me wonder who, if anyone, has edited or proofread this book before it goes to publication.

Seeing I am certified as an editor, I thought I would pass on some of my lessons to you with a round of articles about how to be more effective at editing manuscripts.

What is an editor’s job? First, you have to clean up any “messes.” And, remember the work belongs to the author, so if you are editing another’s work, do not try to rewrite it to your taste. 

The Publication Process:
1.       The author finishes the final draft and a publisher accepts it, it first goes to the editor.
2.       The editor reads the text two or more times, correcting errors on content, grammar, punctuation, and typos, while working closely with the author.
3.       The next step goes to the book designer, where the artistic element is coordinated to enhance the text and to design the cover. Then proofs are printed.
4.       Book designers usually make proofs from the computer then send them to the author and the editor to double check for mistakes.
5.       When the proofs are approved, they go to the printer to become the final product.
6.       The final product results in the book.
The publisher is involved throughout this whole process and gives the final okay to the editor, book designer, and printer before the book is released.
1.        Acquisitions Editor: this is the person who look for authors—basically they are agents or publishers looking for marketable books.
2.       Developmental Editor: this editor works hand in hand with authors to help with rewrites, research, character development, plots and strengthen weaknesses.
3.       Production Editor:  this editor has strong analytical and organizational skills needed to get a book published. He or she manages the manuscript from editing through printing. Some production editors may be book designers or act as liaison to the printer.
4.       Book Designer: these folks are knowledgeable in computer programs to format and design books.
5.       Managing Editor: this editor manages the entire publishing process from accepted manuscript to finished product.
6.       Proofreader: though this “job” is practically extinct due to computers, proofreaders compare galleys to the edited manuscript, looking for things that do not reflect the editor’s marks as well as any typos and misspellings.
7.       Other editors: these include photo editors, subsidiary rights editors, fact checkers and permissions editors; basically jobs that are “in house” at a publishing company.

Light Editor responsibilities:
1.       Spelling
2.       Grammar
3.       Capitalization
4.       Punctuation
5.       Numbered lists
6.       Table of Contents
7.       Table and Figure numbers

Medium Editing responsibilities: correctness and consistency of…
1.       Numbers
2.       Abbreviations
3.       Gender Neutrality
4.       Content and Style
a.       Audience: does the text speak to its intended audience?
b.      Logic and clarity: are the ideas presented logically and clearly?
c.       Usage: are the right words used to convey the intended meaning?
d.      Format: are titles, headers, sub headers, lists, tables and figures set up consistently?

Heavy Editing responsibilities: the need to look for and eliminate the following transgressions:
1.       Redundancies
2.       Wordiness, triteness
3.       Vague generalizations
4.       Weak sentence style
5.       Organizational weakness
6.       Lack of focus

1.       Look it up: make sure facts, spelling, etc. are correct.
2.       Be consistent:  this is especially true for numbers and abbreviations.
3.       Just because you see something in the “New York Times” doesn’t mean it’s right: even the “New York Times” can make mistakes, so make sure your work is accurate.
4.       Editing is subjective: the need to be aware of current word usage as well as evolving usage and be flexible enough to adapt to the changes. This means the rules of punctuation, grammar, style and usage are not completely rigid and writers and editors have latitude in deciding how to proceed.
5.       Perfection is the enemy of done:  every editor longs for a perfect edit, but that is next to impossible. You will always find something you should fix, tweak, or finesse. If you keep looking for perfection, you will never finish your edit.

These rules are all the basics of an editor’s job, whether you are a professional editor or just going over your own manuscript. My next “installment” will introduce the tools editors use to do their job.


  1. Nancy, great editing tips. I look forward to the next installment!

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

  2. Excellent. As an author, one needs to have your manuscript as polished as you can get it even before you submit it to an editor. That makes the editor's job easier and saves you money.

  3. Good overview Nancy. I think that many of us don't realise how many different types of editors it takes to make a final book look good. A Development Editor often has very different skills to a Proofreader and one doesn't always mean the other.

  4. Great review Nancy. Especially enjoyed how you outlined the roles of different editors.

  5. Nancy, this was so good and I am grateful for this information. I am printing it off. Thanks so much!


  6. Thanks all for your comments! :-)

  7. Hi Nancy
    did not have time to stop when I first noticed this but the info is so good, I've stopped by to link to it in my blog for the A - Z Challenge.
    Super info and looking forward to part 2


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