How to Find the Right Editor, Part 1: The Writer’s Wish List

by Erin Brenner

You spend a lot of time sweating the small stuff in your manuscript, employing all the skills and gifts at your disposal. But at some point, you have to let someone else handle your copy. You have to hire an editor. In this series, we’ll explore how to find and hire the right editor for your manuscript.
In part one: creating your wish list.

A Writer’s Wish List

My editor …

  • Is well acquainted with my topic or industry.
  • Has experience in the level of editing I need.
  • Is familiar with my style guide (APA, Chicago, AP, etc.).
  • Has experience with my medium (book, business reports, Web, etc.).
  • Has and knows how to use the software my copy is in (Word, Acrobat, In-Copy, etc.).
  • Contacts me with questions about the copy or the project.
  • Warns me if the project is taking longer than expected.

Does My Editor Have to Be an Industry Expert?

The short answer is it depends.

Let’s say you’re writing in the sciences, and you use lots of specialized words and formulas. It’s really in your best interest if your editor has some knowledge of your topic. If you want your editor to catch errors in your scientific names or formulas, you’d better hire someone who understands those names and formulas.

Or if you want someone to help you develop your Great American Novel, you want someone who knows literature and the market (e.g., he’s edited other novels that have gone on to be published). And anytime you write copy that has a lot of jargon, you want someone familiar with that jargon. Otherwise, he spends his time (and your money) learning your jargon or you spend your time steting all his changes.

That said, there are times when it doesn’t matter if your editor is new to your industry. If you’re looking for someone to copyedit or proofread your copy, you want someone who has a strong grasp of language. Topic is still important, but less so when your editor is focused solely on mechanics. Also, if your copy is for a mainstream audience, your editor doesn’t need to be an expert in your field. You want him to catch instances where mainstream readers might be confused.

In This Series

This article originally appeared on The Writing Resource.