Editing: why you may need professional help

Much as I may adopt a “laisser-faire” attitude to written correctness in some instances, there are times – many times – when a good editor not only can sort out any goofs you may have made in your writing, but also can save your ass by correcting more subtle issues in the text you depend on for important things like work and credibility. Here in this guest post, copy editor and proofreader Claire Annals shares her views and advice…

It’s finally finished. The book/article/leaflet/business card you’ve been slaving over for years/months/weeks/minutes. Your mum loves it, your friend says it’s great and quite frankly you’re sick of the sight of it and just want to send it off to print and do a little happy dance.

Pride comes before a fall

But wait, you’ve written some great copy, you know your subject inside out but maybe you are a little too close to see any flaws.

I still have nightmares about the book I edited on micro-organisms where the spell checker on the word processing software that the author had used changed a crucial word to something else – making it quite a different book. Luckily he’d used an editor rather than depending on his spell checker.

That glaring spelling error, that you can’t believe you missed, is embarrassing when pointed out by an editor but not as damaging as if it had gone to print. If your copy needs to compete against everything else that will be landing on the desk / mat of the prospective publisher / employer / client then it needs to shine.

Surely there’s a DIY fix?

Many editors will tell you that they can’t edit their own work – and we hate being edited just as much as anyone else. The human brain is fantastic – often the eye will see a typo and the brain will register the word as it is supposed to be. A fresh pair of eyes will make all of the difference, especially a pair that has been trained to spot just those types of errors.

Publishing poorly edited copy could have negative repercussions for both you and your business and could be what stands between you and your aim in writing the piece in the first place. When sifting through similar material a typo could be the deciding factor for filing your copy into the circular file.

So what does someone like me do?

A few years ago I was asked to come up with an elevator pitch (yes at a conference) – the perfect answer to that question ‘what do you do?’ So here it is:

Ensuring that what you print is something that you are proud to have written.

If I’ve done my job properly I’ve corrected any glaring spelling errors, corrected grammar and honed and tweaked your copy to make it more readable for your audience – and you can take all the credit.

My 6 year old once said to me ‘Mummy, whenever I see a word, whether I want to read it or not, I have to read it’. It’s the same for me – I can’t stop myself from noticing the missing punctuation, the misspelt word and the sentence that just doesn’t make sense – so becoming an editor for a living seemed to make perfect sense.

Claire Annals is (in no particular order) a mum, editor, craftaholic, SfEP member, sometime blogger and Facebook addict.

More help with your writing and editing:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand




  1. I’ll probably have to make use of your editing services at some stage.

    Finished my book a few weeks ago and would love to go the self publishing route.

  2. Do you have any tips on learning to focus on the words that one is editing? I do just what you said, which is read and input words that are not there. I’ve become much better but the work needs to be perfect. Almost good enough is not good enough. Thanks.