Pen on top of edited pages

Why is editing important?

Editing is a necessity for any manuscript and no book should ever be published without having been seen by an editor. According to Butcher (2011), ‘the main aims of editing are to remove any obstacles between the reader and what the author wants to convey’, and this allows for a good and seamless reading experience. Nothing can ruin a book quite as quickly as bad or no editing. The ultimate goal is to create a coherent and clear text that the reader can truly enjoy and engage with. In publishing, we refer to the four C’s of editing. Editing needs to make the manuscript clear, concise, coherent and correct. This means the following (Dikson, 2016):

  1. Clear: The reader has to understand the meaning and messages your book’s content is trying to convey. What is clear to you might not be clear to your readers. 
  2. Concise: Your text has to be short, sweet and to the point. Writing that is overly complex or unnecessarily only can scare potential off. More text does not always equal more meaningful.
  3. Coherent: This aspect focuses on consistency and sense within a text. Your voice, word choice, etc. needs to be consistent throughout your manuscript. 
  4. Correct: This refers to the correctness of your languages (spelling, grammar, punctuation) and your facts. This means researching and confirming facts before you publish. 

The editor thus plays an essential role in the polishing of a manuscript.

Typewriter with text

What is the editor's role?

“Word-work is sublime… because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference — the way in which we are like no other life.

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

– Toni Morrison, award-winning writer, editor and Nobel Prize laureate


Editors are highly skilled language practitioners. They work on your book at the word and sentence level while keeping in mind the overall goal of the book. They often come from different backgrounds. At Staging Post our editors include historians, academics, literature graduates, translators and linguists. And as Jacana editors the team works on about 70 books a year.

Here are some of the things editors ensure happen when they work on your manuscript. They will:

  • Ensure a consistent approach to spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, presentation of lists and tables, spacing, heading styles
  • Check all elements, including prelims, tables, artwork/illustrations, etc. are in place
  • Clarify unclear terminology
  • Remove unnecessary abbreviations and colloquialisms
  • Draw up a list of abbreviations if necessary
  • Correct all grammatical errors and problems with word use
  • Highlight/correct confusing expressions
  • Check facts*
  • Review logical flow of text
  • Cross-check citations in text and reference lists and bibliography, etc. and make sure that all sources are referenced and in a consistent style
  • Highlight all quotations/lyrics/extracts that will require permission (where obvious)
  • Remove all extra spaces within the document
  • If quotations are longer than about 60 words, then indent them (instead of running them on within the main text within inverted commas)
  • Make sure foreign (i.e. non-English) proper names are not italicised, e.g. Bibliotheque Nationale, and retain their accents if in the original language
  • Format and assign styles to text and headings (they’ll mark-up for the designer heading hierarchy in square brackets and red text, as: [A], [B], [C] and so on)
  • Draw up a table of contents and check against the actual chapter headings in the book
  • Follow the in-house style guide
  • Draw up a style sheet for the proofreader

*The editing process also does not and cannot check all facts or the correctness of the content you have provided, as editors and proof-readers, while highly skilled language professionals, are not necessarily subject experts.

E.g.: An editor won’t know that your great-uncle was named Steven and not Stephen, unless you have given them a clue by using both spellings, in which case they will query the consistency. So, the responsibility for the correctness of the content lies with you.

When working with our editors they will create a list of queries for you and work through your manuscript using track changes. There will be some back and forth as you answer their queries. You are also able to ask them questions about your book and the changes they have made or suggested. Editing can take anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks, it really depends on the length your book. Please contact us for a quote and we will be able to let you know how long your specific book will take.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *