By Sarah Hayhurst
I love to read a book that is noticeably edited well. In contrast, content that has grammatical issues, formatting flaws, and communication blunders derails me from the author’s well-intended message. Granted, most editors likely have a keener sensitivity to such details than the average reader, but I believe that all readers are less distracted—even subconsciously—if the copy is clean of errors, pleasant to the eye, and effective. Clean copy gives readers the assurance that the message itself is accurate, excellent, and valuable—worth their investment of time to read.
If I am cooking a steak dinner for my husband on Father’s Day, would I go to all of the work to buy and prepare the food and then serve it on paper plates with plastic knives? No, I would serve hot dogs and chips that way if I were in a rush. Likewise, if a manuscript is polished well, it will reflect the value or worth of what it communicates. In other words, only hot dogs belong on paper plates … and even a hot dog could seem special if it were served in a warmed bun, neatly displayed with embellishments on a glass plate. If the information is valuable, authors should not stop short of excellence in the delivery.
If we determine that the information is valuable—a steak dinner, so to speak—then it deserves to be delivered with excellence. Chances are, if it was important enough for the author to write, it is important enough for the author to seek the expert touch of an editor as well. For example, if someone is excited about a job interview, they will dress up and present themselves well rather than show up in jeans and forget to brush their teeth or clean under their fingernails. While that seems so obvious, authors will sometimes disadvantage themselves by not wanting to invest time and money into a professional editor. The editor’s special touch might surpass any other effort to get the manuscript noticed, published, and sold!
We can conclude that the details of a manuscript speak volumes and that editors “do” details. And those details comprise an endless list: grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax, pace, clarity, word choice and variety, antecedents, subject/verb agreement, and misplaced modifiers. Not to mention incorporating the specific rules and formatting guidelines found in the thousand pages of The Chicago Manual of Style, as expected by all publishers. Hiring an editor is not optional for a serious author.
I remember the day that I did not want to pay my dog’s groomer anymore. “It can’t be that hard,” I figured. After a trip to the store for the grooming set, I began cutting away. Several hours later, I was exhausted and bewildered while the dog feared for its life and looked like an electrocuted lion. I now give my dog’s groomer a big tip every time! Expertise is valuable—and the results are worth every penny invested.
Graduating with degrees in secretarial science and communication arts, Sarah has enjoyed a variety of positions, such as editor/teacher for a publishing company, managing editor for a university, marketing director for a law firm, and technology instructor/staff editor for a school. These and other experiences make Sarah a versatile editor today. Visit sarahhayhurst.com if you need assistance with your nonfiction manuscript or website content as these are Sarah’s specialties!