Answers to common questions about editing

Why do you start with a sample edit?

A sample edit allows the author and the editor to understand each other’s styles and get some initial questions asked and answered. This also allows me to provide you with an analysis of what your manuscript actually needs and a firm quote for those services.

What style guides do you edit with?

I am well-versed in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), the AP Stylebook, and the APA Publication Manual. I recommend CMOS to most people working on a book.

I have also edited books for U.K. clients and used the Oxford Style Manual.

What is a style guide?

Fairly early in our education, we are taught the “rules” of grammar, but it can be surprising to know that some of those so-called rules are not really set-in-stone rules but are guidelines that a certain style of writing uses.

A very common example is the serial, or Oxford, comma. This style says that in a series there should be a comma after every item in the series.

Example: I offer structural, content, and copy editing. (The comma in red is a serial comma.)

Some style guides only use the serial comma in specific, rare occasions while other guides always call for the use of a serial comma.

So, if you’ve ever received conflicting advice about comma usage, it is probably related to style rather than grammar. Many comma rules are a matter of style and not a true grammar rule.

The most common style guides in the US are the Chicago Manual of Style (most commonly used for books), the AP Stylebook (most common in journalism), and the APA Publication Manual (used in research and academia). You might also be familiar with MLA style, which is often what a U.S. high school student learns when writing papers for English. Most companies and publishing houses have their own in-house style guides that usually are based on one of the “main” styles but can have notable differences depending on the preferences of the company or house.

The UK, Canada, and Australia also have style manuals that often have quite different rules from U.S. style guides.

Is a 100-percent error-free book possible?

Every editor strives for perfection, but we are human. There is no such thing as a perfect, 100-percent error-free manuscript. The human brain is just too smart, and if an editor ever says something longer than a page is going to be error free, they are only telling you what they think you want to hear.

Editing is like painting a wall white when it started out bright orange. The more primer and coats applied the more the original paint color will be hidden. The more rounds of editing a manuscript receives, the better the final product. It also depends on how many errors the manuscript starts with. If there are ten errors on a single page, then an editor should be able to catch all of them. If there are one thousand errors on a single page, then catching all of those in one round of editing is unlikely.

Why do some editors charge a couple hundred dollars while others charge a couple thousand?

Editing costs vary widely depending on the type of editing required, the amount of time needed to complete the edit, and the experience level of the editor. Even freelance editors have to cover overhead costs for their businesses and that, like with any other business, varies depending on location and other factors.

The good news is you will usually be able to find an editor that will fit your budget, but do your due diligence before hiring anyone. Don’t assume that a low quote means a bad edit or a high quote means an excellent edit. I would ask for a sample edit (see full details), and if the editor doesn’t offer a sample edit, then I, personally, would be hesitant to entrust them with my manuscript.