What is editing?
Editors play an intrinsic role in the quality assurance process. It’s usually obvious from the first couple of sentences when a project hasn’t been professionally edited.
This reflects on the writer and their management, but worse – it makes the entire company look unprofessional.
It makes it difficult for stakeholders to retain confidence in a business when it publishes content with typos and inconsistencies.
An experienced and qualified editor ensures spelling, grammar, punctuation, tone, voice, content and structure are polished, consistent and correct.
A good editor picks up other things too – things some people might not notice – such as spelling inconsistencies, misplaced commas and even small errors like incorrectly sized dashes.
If you’d like to know more about common errors see my blog post: 9 common errors every writer should know about.
What's the difference between dashes and hyphens?
Did you know, for example, that we have hyphens (-), en dashes (–) and em dashes (––), and they all serve different purposes within your writing?
You may think that focusing on such small errors sounds pedantic, but it reflects the difference between run-of-the-mill writing and professionally prepared content.
Having the correct dash in the right place is one of the small signs of expert writing – and everybody wants to look like a professional.
Why good editors don't use spellcheckers
Another thing a good editor never uses is a spellchecker. Why?
Running a spellchecker over a report or key document could ultimately cause you embarrassment because those algorithms often miss contextual errors that a good human editor would spot immediately.
Spellcheckers don’t pick up subtleties or nuances in text and, even worse, they don’t understand what you want to say when you can’t find the right word for the right context.
An editor’s job is to work out what you want to say and to help you say it in the best possible way.
What is editorial style?
Editorial style is about consistency. It’s about spelling or treating the same word in the same way throughout a document or project.
For example, when multiple writers contribute to a document, such as an annual report, they each bring their own spelling and punctuation preferences and habits. This results in a lot of inconsistencies and distractions, and the published report ends up looking unprofessional.
If all the writers use the same editorial style guide, then it’s more likely it will be consistent and at a professional publishing standard.
Some examples of the types of inconsistencies we encounter when style guides are not used are below.
Should we write travelling or traveling?
That depends on whether you’re in the Australia or the US.
Should an ellipsis have a space before it? Like this …? Or not, like this…?
You might be surprised to hear that the former is an English convention that is used in Australia, and the latter is an American convention that a lot of people mistakenly use in Australia.
Do we use a possessive apostrophe on Mother’s Day or not?
That depends on current editorial convention, which at the moment says we do. You might be interested to hear that style changes over time – but there’s no need to be concerned because our editors are all over style changes.
Do we use that or which?
That depends on whether the information is essential or non-essential to the meaning of the clause. Sound complicated? Don’t worry this is one of my bugbears and I’m an expert spotter!
For more information on when to use which and that, check out my blog post: Which or that: how to choose.
Why consistency is important
The Textshop Digital Style Guide is available as a free download on the Textshop website. Check the home page for the link.
I mentioned the importance of consistency. That’s why for Australian content I use the latest edition of the online Macquarie Dictionary for all word spellings.
My editorial style decisions are based on the Australian Government Style Manual (sixth edition) – except where decisions for online content have been based on my digital experience.
For overseas content I use the editorial style that is aligned with that area of the world. For example, for U.S. content I use U.S spelling and editorial conventions. I am well-practised in working in this way when required.
Some of my clients have their own editorial style guides, and I’m happy to adhere to them. In fact, I love to because it means I’m more closely aligned with the way they want their content to read and look.
National publishing award after an epic team effort
I was honoured to be Project Editor and Senior Editor on the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way.
This legendary and much-loved cookbook has been around since 1966, and has sold over one million copies.
For the eighth edition, I managed a two-week studio photoshoot that produced more than 500 images for hundreds of new recipes.
I also managed the editorial process from manuscript handover to sign-off for printing. This nine-month process required a high level of expertise in both editing and project management. Ultimately, we produced what Home Economics Victoria call the “one of the best loved and most widely used textbooks in Australian publishing history”.
You can purchase this wonderful book at booktopia or any good bookstore.
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