Nowadays, we're all writers. We write articles, blogs, e-mails, proposals, and essays. But are we writing well? Your spellcheck will only pick up glaring errors in your copy. If you make a typo or use a homonym, the spellcheck will probably miss it. For example, you want to say that your character has a problem with the cops but instead you say caps. Makes for a good laugh – at your expense!
A good editor will pick up typos, misplaced or dangling modifiers, run-on sentences, misuse of apostrophes, spelling errors that spellcheck has never heard of because they relate to certain cities or movie names, as well as recognize repetitious words, redundant concepts, inconsistencies, plot holes, poor organization, and a lack of clarity. As William Safire said, the best way to proof copy is to hire someone else to do it!
I'm also the author of three books and countless articles. Because I'm a writer, I have your best interest at heart.
Most of my clients like to send me 500 to 600 words of text so that I can perform a free sample edit. This way I have a sense of their writing style and they get a good picture of my service before either one of us commits to working together. Then, I am available for consultation by phone or on Skype if a client wants to give me more details about a project or ask questions. If not, we can chat back and forth on e-mail until the project is completed.
The first thing I do is ask if there is something in particular a client wants me to look for. Some people are already aware of their problematic areas, but others aren't. If I am critiquing a business proposal or manuscript, I am just as likely to note the strengths of a piece of work as well as its weaknesses.
For nonfiction critiques, I look at structure, organization, flow, readability, consistency, clarity, redundancy, and up-to-date references. For fiction, I assess character development, background setting, plot loopholes, essential cliffhangers at the end of chapters, and the plausibility of the story. In all types of work, I look for repetitious words – a favorite word that an author may have but be unaware of using. My favorite word is however; however, I am aware that I overuse that word! Therefore, when I'm finished writing an article or book, I will go back and do a search for that particular word and substitute synonyms.
When I'm doing a critique, or manuscript evaluation, I make numerous comments in the margins, and I write a five to ten page report for the client recommending ways to improve the material. But not every work needs an evaluation. Many pieces of writing are ready to go directly to the editing grill!
In that case, I offer three levels of editing. A basic edit consists of correcting typos, misspellings, grammatical errors and problems with punctuation.
My second line of editing includes all the above as well as flagging repetitious words and inconsistencies, and indicating parts of the work that may be inconsistent or unclear. My third level of editing, the Cadillac choice and what I recommend for all people with English as a second language, involves all the aforementioned as well as a line-by-line correction of awkward sentence structure, wordiness, changing passive sentences to active ones, and generally ensuring that the book, sales copy, proposal, or essay is as tight, cohesive, and readable as possible.