Today we have a wonderful guest post by Heidi Turner. She has put into words my feelings exactly; it bothers me to no end when I buy a book and find errors. Help us all make books as error-free as possible! Enjoy Heidi’s wonderful post and be sure to visit her sites listed at the bottom in her bio. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your opinion with us!
Why This Writer Loves Editors
by Heidi Turner
I’m not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a good writer, but I know mistakes happen. That’s why I think it’s vital to have a good editor look over my work. It’s not an insult and it’s not a sign that I don’t know how to write. It’s a sign that sometimes, even with the best writers, mistakes happen.
One of the worst things for me, as a reader and as a writer, is when errors occur in books. Errors, be they spelling, grammar or continuity errors, confuse the reader. They stop her dead in her tracks, forcing her to reread the sentence (or paragraph) and wonder exactly what the writer meant. They interrupt the flow of the book.
The best-case scenario with an error in a book is that the reader won’t notice. But some readers will, and it will bother them. It makes them wonder about how professional the writer really is. When there are multiple errors in the book, it makes readers wonder if they should continue reading or if they should bother buying more books by the same author.
I’m currently reading a book that was highly promoted in Canada (where I live). I won’t give away the name of the book or the author, but I will say that on one page, the author uses the word “serious” where he meant to use the word “series.” I might be picky, but I’m certain I’m not the only person who noticed the error. And even if it only stopped me for a minute, that’s a minute too long.
A big source of errors, I find, are self-published books. It’s too bad, because a lot of self-published writers have something to say. The problem is that some either refuse to pay for an editor or they have too much confidence in their own editing skills. Either way, the result is a book that I might start to read but I quickly put aside because I can’t handle the errors. Usually when this happens, I make a mental note not to buy more books by the same author.
It bothers me when writers refuse to pay for editors. After all, as a profession we don’t like to hear about non-writers taking jobs from writers. We don’t like to hear people say, “If I can pass high school English, I can be a writer, too.” So why should we assume that just because we can write, we can also edit? Editing is a specialized skill, one that takes dedication, training and an eye for details.
I’m of the firm belief that it’s impossible for even the best writers to edit their own work. We’re often too close to the work to be objective about it. Furthermore, our eyes often see what we think is there, not what is actually there. So we mistake a “me” for “my” or a “serious” for “series.” They’re just close enough that a quick glance might not uncover the error—but once they’re in print, they’re that way forever.
Editors catch the errors that writers miss. They ensure consistency in spelling and tense. They question ideas that don’t make sense. They take a writer’s words and ensure those words are clear, coherent and correct. They are the final step to ensuring that a work is as professional as possible.
For my money, editors are worth their weight in gold. Because as a writer, I want my readers focused on my words and ideas, not on my misplaced apostrophes and dangling participles.
John and Toni Rakestraw are the owners of Rakestraw Book Design. Toni is the editor; she keeps all those words in line. John is the voice of the company. He can often be found hosting Google+ Hangouts on writing and issues writers face online. Archives for his shows can be found on YouTube.