Articles / On Editing

In today’s quick tip, we are discussing five questions that you should ask any editor you are considering hiring and the reasons why you should ask these questions.

#1 What style manual and dictionary do you use?

If your potential editor cannot tell you what style guide and dictionary they use, go elsewhere. The standard style guide for publishing and business is the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition and the recommended dictionary by CMoS is the Unabridged Merriam-Webster Dictionary. AP Style is standard for journalism. MLA Style is used for scholarly works and school papers. APA Style is the standard for the American Psychological Association. Make sure your editor is using the appropriate guide and a recognized dictionary, not a fly-by-night internet dictionary or their spidey senses.

#2 Do you guarantee your work and what recourse do I have if I’m not satisfied?

Cover yourself. Ask what your options are if you are dissatisfied with the edit and make sure you can live with those options.

#3 What is your professional editing/publishing experience?

Don’t be afraid to inquire about your potential editor’s professional background. Ask for their resume or a list of books they have worked on. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for references and to ask how long they have been an editor. Sure, everyone has to start somewhere, but do you really want to be the guinea pig?

#4 What is your specialty (type of editing, genres)?

If an editor is a jack-of-all-trades be wary. Editors tend to specialize. An editor who is great at developing manuscripts may only be passably decent when it comes to proofreading. And just because an editor has eagle-sharp eyes when it comes to copy editing does not mean she can spot substantive issues. These types of editing require skills and abilities that are often incompatible with each other and are rarely found in a single individual.

Editors also tend to have preferred genres or genres in which they are more experienced. There is nothing wrong with seeking out an editor who specializes in your genre and in the type of editing you require. An editor who is unfamiliar with your genre and the desires of your target audience could give bad substantive and developmental advice.

#5 What happens to my manuscript when you are done editing it?

Know where your words are. What is your potential editor’s policy when it comes to your manuscript? Find out how long the editor keeps a copy. Find out where that copy is kept. Ask about the security of your manuscript. We live in an age of hacking and intellectual property theft. You cannot be too careful.


Take a look at your potential editor’s social media. What are they like on Twitter and Facebook? Do they seem professional? Levelheaded? Honest? Visit their blog and read what they’ve written. Are the articles intelligent? Well written? Well edited? Does the potential editor have a LinkedIn profile? If so, take a look at it. It will list their educational background and work history. It will have endorsements and recommendations from co-workers. You will also be able to see how many professional connections your potential editor has.

All these things will help you determine if the editor is a right fit for your project. You are interviewing this person for a job. Treat it is such. It’s okay to ask questions. I promise. 🙂

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