People often struggle with the idea of hiring an editor. After all, who knows better than you do about what you meant to write, right? Well, you would be amazed at how many little mistakes end up in business and marketing copy and author manuscripts.
Often our mistakes are slight or comical and, hopefully, forgettable. For example, I once wrote that a helicopter pilot was holding a flip chart in his hand as he performed a safety check. So…did you catch the mistake? I said he was holding a “flip chart,” which should have read a “clip board.” A flip chart is one of those gigantic pads of paper that sit on an easel for writing on during boardroom meetings. I laughed out loud when this was brought to my attention by my editor. (Yes, even editors need editors sometimes).
Unfortunately, some mistakes are costly, and these are the ones you want to avoid completely. Here are five ways an editor can keep you out of trouble:
Using text or images that you don’t have permission to use can get you into hot water. An editor can help you determine when a copyright owner’s permission is needed (based on the intent and type of use of the content you are borrowing) and when the content is in the public domain (when permission is not necessary).
By writing a false statement about someone, you can damage a person’s reputation, which is cause for libel. So if you are writing a memoir that includes a shady character, an editor can flag possible areas of libel so that you can make sure the wording is exactly correct and accurate.
As society evolves, so does its languages. An editor can help make sure that you’re using today’s terms and that you are not inadvertently writing something in an offensive way. For example, we always put people first, so we would say “a person with a disability,” not “a disabled.”
Even though you wouldn’t intentionally use someone else’s words without permission, it happens. It’s easy to get caught up in copying great content from a study online and temporarily pasting it into your own draft chapter. Then you get busy, you don’t look at your draft chapter for over a month, and by that time you’ve completely forgotten that the words were not your own. Now editors are not clairvoyant, but they are trained to notice a few clues that a passage might not be from the author’s original thought, such as a shift in vocabulary and a change in paragraph and font styles.
While fact checking is typically the responsibility of the author, an editor can flag for you any facts, such as dates or odd spellings of names, that might seem off so that you can double check the facts with your sources. Or you can ask an editor to quote you for an edit and a fact check of your work.
As you can see from the above items, having an editor review your work before it’s published is a great way for you to be confident that your words, ideas, and images will not inadvertently offend your readers.