Are you a writer? Do you care about your writing?
Are you satisfied to publish your work for the world to see, when the quality of your writing is less than perfect? Sadly, some writers don’t care, but believe me, readers care.
Not many writers have flawless manuscripts. Creativity and the mechanics of writing don’t always go together. Working with a good copy-editor is essential.
I am a writer and a copy-editor–a good one, I think–and still, before I publish anything, I have another writer read my work and then I hire a copy-editor to read it again. I am always amazed at what they find.
I could read my own words over ten times and not see a mistake, but when I read someone else’s words, any mistakes would leap off the page at me. Why is that?
An author knows what their sentences are going to say. Our brain tricks us into thinking that those words are there, and, especially if we are reading silently, we tend to gloss over errors. When reading someone else’s work, we don’t know what is coming, so we see the mistakes more easily.
Why should you care if your writing is perfect or not?
Readers buy books expecting quality for the money they pay. As a writer, it is your obligation to give them your best. It is a matter of pride and reputation. Do you want to be known as a good writer, or a sloppy one? Do you only want to publish a “one-hit wonder” and never write again? Would you want people to “wonder” why you bothered to publish that carelessly written “one hit”?
I’ve heard many readers say, “When I see one mistake, okay, I can overlook it, but when there is another and another, I lose track of the story and find myself just looking for that next mistake.” What a horrible thing for someone to say about your book. But so true!
When I skim over the first few pages of a book to see if I want to read it, I usually find bits of dialogue to see how that is written. If it has complicated dialogue tags, such as “inquired, responded, answered, replied, questioned,” and “shouted,” instead of “said” and “asked,” I move on to look for another book. Dialogue tags should be like punctuation–important, but not “in your face.”
I look for correct usage of ordinary words such as “its, it’s, your, you’re, their, there,” and “they’re.” I look for incorrect capitalization of “mom, dad, spring, summer, fall, winter, north, south, east, west, sir, madam, heaven, hell,” and many other words. (Note that “Mom and Dad” would be capitalized, but “my mom and my dad” would not be.)
In a short sample of writing, I can usually tell whether the work has been copy-edited or not.
Yes, it costs to have work copy-edited, but the price is not unreasonable. Your reputation hangs on the quality of your writing, and once the work is cleaned up, it will stay that way forever. Unedited work also stays that way and your damaged reputation as a careless writer could follow you around forever too.
Copy-editors do much more than correct those examples I’ve given. They will check:
- your sentences for balance to make sure your verbs match the subject
- if you’ve omitted or repeated words or information
- spelling, including homonyms
- extra spaces
- verb tense and usage, especially for problem verbs such as “lie, lay, laid, lain”
- point-of-view errors
- clichés, and many other errors you may have inadvertently made.
Please visit my website and click on the page for copy-editing if you are interested in having a few pages of your work copy-edited for free.