To Edit Or Not To Edit… that is the question!

As an editor, I get asked all the time… “does it really matter if presentation isn’t up to scratch, as long as the content is okay?” — yes, it does matter. It’s vitally important to make sure your work is at as high a standard as possible, whether it’s a full length epic novel or a short article, whether you are sending work to publishers or producers, or putting up work on your own blog site.

When people read something you have written, the last thing you want them to be talking about is the bad spelling and grammar, you want them to be raving about the story, not talking about the bad editing.

I have spoken to traditional book publishers and producers of film scripts and I asked them if they would consider a piece that was badly presented, but the content was great and they all said, “no”, they would not accept work that was badly presented. Their reasons were that they feel, if the writer doesn’t care about their work, why should anyone else? One producer told me that he would have to spend time training a writer and this leads to mistrust and the writer being rejected.

It doesn’t matter how many times you have to go over your work to check it, you’ll be surprised at finding something you missed the previous 10 times you’ve read over it and it could be something as simple as a word where the letters have been tranpsosed. I ask my clients who write short articles to give me two weeks to edit, because no matter how short a piece of work is, I go over it again and again until I am certain I have not missed something and sometimes that can mean taking a break from it for a few days and then going back to it with fresh eyes. Writing (in any genre) is 10% inspiration, 90% rewrites. The first draft of anything, should never be the end result and it’s also a matter of pride that your work is at it’s very best.

A few things I look out for when I’m editing are pieces of work where the writer has begun sentences and paragraphs with conjunctive words, such as ‘and’, ‘but’ etc. These are words that join two parts of a sentence together and should not be used to start sentences and paragraphs, it also doesn’t look nice in a piece and there are other, better ways to begin sentences and paragraphs. The exception is when using these words in dialogue.

A lot of writers use double apostrophes for everything, but I believe, for presentation sake, “double apostrophes” should only be used in dialogue, to show when a character is speaking. Everything else, ‘thought, emphasis’ etc., should have single apostrophes. I think this makes a piece look much neater and it differentiates between the two, showing clearly that one is speech and the other is thought or emphasis.

Don’t settle for second best. Don’t think to yourself ‘that will do’ and just hope for the best, go the extra mile to make sure that if it was you receiving your own work, would you be happy with it? If you were a publisher would you want to read your story? So make sure the presentation is every bit as good as the content.

Oh.. just before I go….Did you spot the deliberate spelling mistake in this blog? ;)