Working With An Editor For The First Time: 5 Tips.

Working With An Editor For The First Time

New things are daunting, and deciding to work with an editor for the first time is no exception. Luckily, we’ve got you covered!

#1 Choose the Right One

One of the best descriptions of what an editor is, comes from the NY book editors’ blog:

“You’ve probably heard the joke that when you work with a psychiatrist, you’re paying for a friend. Well, if we apply that joke to editing, we can say that when you work with a professional editor, you’re paying for a reader.”

Why would anyone pay for a reader? The short answer is that someone must read, and that an editor is the best “someone” for the job. Let’s break it down:

  1. All writing is meant to be read and the better the writing is, the easier and more gratifying it is to read. Unfortunately, a writer cannot really read their own work. In fact, the curious inability to spot silly mistakes in our own writing even has name – “typo-blindness.
  2. If your writing needs to be read, then you must choose the best reader for the job. You might not need an expert reader for a whatsapp-message to a friend, but what about an important document or a dissertation? The more important the writing is to you, the more necessary it is to get a good reader. And, your editor is no ordinary reader – they are a professional reader!

Once you have decided that your writing requires a professional reader, you need to start searching for a directory and/or company of professional and/or registered editors and language practitioners. Always choose a language practitioner who has experience and expertise in the field and on the topic of your writing.

#2 Choose the Right Type

There is more than one type of edit that you can request from an editor.

Developmental editing

Developmental editing or “manuscript critique” is usually the first step in editing. It is an entry-level edit that focuses more on content and general structure than on grammatical and spelling errors. The purpose of a developmental edit is to give a broad assessment of your writing to help you tackle problems and weaknesses that might hinder the process going forward.

Developmental editing is also used when a writer wants input on the content, structure, and flow of her writing. A fiction writer may, for instance, want to know whether her plot makes sense; a doctoral student may want to know whether her arguments are logically structured.


The line-edit is a more detailed type of edit. Your editor analyses your writing line by line during this type of edit. They will search for clumsy sentences, vague phrasing, general errors, weaknesses in your writing, vocabulary, and structural problems.

The line-edit is usually done when writing is still in progress, with a manuscript or document that is still in “draft” form.


This is usually the last, and final stage of the editing process. Your editor will do a copy-edit only when they have received the final version of your written document.

The editor will focus on both the smallest of details and on the bigger picture view of your document. They will check for any grammatical or spelling errors, typos, syntax and consistency errors. They will also check for technical consistency in formatting, such as capitalisation, font usage, line and paragraph spacing, numerals, and hyphenation.

If requested, an editor can also check for factual inconsistencies and errors, plagiarism and potential legal liability, as well as bibliographical and referencing errors and inconsistencies.

#3 Communicate

Your editor is your partner in publishing – they are the reader who wants to see your writing appear in public in its best dress!

Editors are not human spell-checkers. They are human beings with expertise and experience in language and writing who can help you shape whatever it is that you want to communicate to others in writing. To be able to this, however, they must be able to communicate with you as well.

The more detail you provide an editor with regarding your writing goals and aims, the smoother the process will go and the better the final product will be.

#4 Prepare Your Manuscript

Respect yourself and your reader. Your writing is not a piece of trash and your editor is not a trashcan!

Prepare your written documents for editing. This means that you will need to decide which type of edit your document requires. If you are just starting out, then prepare the document for developmental editing. Further along, but not finished? Prepare for a line-edit. Your final version? Only then do you send a piece of writing for copy-editing.

Remember that if you choose to work with an editor from the start, they will be with you during the entire journey and all the types of edits this entails.

#5 Trust the Process

Writing and editing are arts as much as they are skills. This means that both are process-driven activities that take time and require constant attention.

You need to be patient with both yourself and your editor. You also need to be open to suggestions, and prepared and willing to revise and rewrite. Remember that your editor is also open to suggestions.

Trust that the journey from an idea in your mind to actual words on paper is worth the effort even when the going gets tough!  A good editor is there to help you help you complete it with grace and dignity.


Additional sources:

NY Book Editors Blog

Writing Tips Daily

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