By Karin Beery
Working as a freelance editor certainly has its perks—you can work from home (in your sweatpants), set your own hours, and spend yours days reading! Honestly though, just about anyone can do that. If you want to be a good editor—someone who is trusted and counted on—there are a few more things you need to know. And as with many things in life, you probably already learned most of these lessons in kindergarten.
1. Be Honest. You’re not doing anyone any favors by overlooking mistakes, even if they’re common or accepted. It can be especially tempting to let things slide if you know the author. Don’t do it. Your job is to apply the rules of the Chicago Manual of Style or AP Stylebook to the manuscript. Be honest about what needs fixing.
2. Be Kind. You want to help your author improve her manuscript, not point out how much she doesn’t know. Even if she makes the same mistake one hundred times, be kind and professional in your comments.
3. Take Your Time. The worst thing you can do is rush through a manuscript in an effort to meet a deadline. Your client is paying you for your best work, so make sure you provide it (even if it means asking for an extension). Your kindergarten teacher didn’t settle for sloppy letters and numbers; you shouldn’t settle for a sloppily edited manuscript.
4. Use Your Words. Don’t just correct something. Explain why you made or are suggesting the correction. Reference the CMOS or AP rule to support your work.
5. Sharing is Caring. Don’t just use your words to prove how smart you are. If it’s clear that your author doesn’t understand something, offer suggestions on how to correct it (or better yet—a good resource for learning the correct way). Share your expertise.
6. Naptime. It’s hard to concentrate when you’re tired. That makes it easy to make mistakes. Don’t make mistakes. Go to bed or take a nap so you can give the manuscript your complete attention.
7. Hold Hands and Stick Together. Editing is a lonely job. It’s also an ever-changing industry with lots and lots of rules. Sometimes you need encouragement. Other times you need help finding the right answer. Don’t try to do it all by yourself. Find a professional organization and get involved. The Christian PEN provides more than just an association to list on your resume—it offers support and encouragement that’s hard to find outside the writing and editing world.
Owner of Write Now Editing and Copywriting Services, Karin Beery specializes in fiction and professional business copy. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the American Christian Writers Association. A Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network member, she is the Substantive Editing for Fiction instructor for the PEN Institute. Karin is represented by literary agent Steve Hutson at Word Wise Media. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website, www.karinbeery.com.
Top photo credit: Michael Verhoef via Flickr Creative Commons