The editor's role in producing your book

Sally-Anne Watson Kane . Monday, July 09, 2018 . Comments
The editor's role in producing your book

The editor's role in producing your book is to edit the manuscript to make sure it is well-structured, clear and error free, ready for the next stage of graphic design.

Clarifying style

First, the editor needs to clarify the manual to be used as the main guide when editing the manuscript; for example, the guide I use when editing Australian publications is the current edition of The Australian Style Manual.

The editor then creates a style sheet to ensure the language, style and formatting are consistent throughout the manuscript. For more information about creating a style sheet go to: IPEd - the editing style sheet.

Structural editing

The editor needs to decide whether the language, style and overall design of your manuscript meets the needs or expectations of the intended audience. If it doesn't, they may recommend major structural changes; for example, moving chapters around, deleting chapters or sections, or writing or rewriting paragraphs or even whole chapters. 

The editor consults with the writer about who is the best person to make those corrections; for example, usually the writer does any writing or rewriting needed and the editor completes the other corrections.

Grammar, spelling, punctuation, believability

The editor must correct the grammar, spelling and punctuation in keeping of the overall style of the book. Regardless of whether the manuscript is fiction or non-fiction, the language needs to be clear and everything should make sense.

Non-fiction manuscripts should always be edited so they have correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. In fiction and creative non-fiction, although the usual grammatical rules may not apply, the editor must ensure the story 'flows' and the dialogue represents what people really would say in those situations - that is, that the characters and what they say are believable. 


Depending on what the book is about, the editor may need to fact-check the manuscript which means cross-checking the information in the manuscript with other sources to make sure it is correct. Information that may need to be checked includes photo captions, referencing, specialist words or acronyms, links to web pages and quotes from publications.

When editing a fiction manuscript, fact-checking is about ensuring all descriptions of equipment, flora or fauna, places or events that are based on real things are correct; this is usually undertaken as part of the line editing process.

How many edits will your manuscript need?

The editor usually needs to edit the manuscript more than once. For example:

  • if the manuscript needs major structural changes, the editor will need to undertake a structural edit prior to further editing

  • if the manuscript needs a lot of grammatical corrections as well as spelling and punctuation corrections, the editor will need to undertake a line edit prior to copy editing the manuscript

  • if the manuscript does not need structural editing or line editing, the editor may be able to undertake a copy edit only. Copy editing (sometimes called 'proofreading') involves correcting all the errors remaining in the manuscript such as spelling, punctuation and occasional grammatical errors, and confirming that the manuscript is ready for the graphic design stage. 

Helpful links to more information about editing

For more information go to: 

This article is based on my own experience over the past 20 years, editing and proofreading reports, policies and publications; self-publishing; and publishing my website and articles online. On Time Typing's editors have extensive experience in editing fiction and non-fiction publications. For other articles about editing go to: Blog - writing, editing, proofreading

Copyright Sally-Anne Watson Kane, On Time Typing. Please seek my permission prior to reproducing this article in any way but feel free to link directly to this page if you wish to use this content - thanks!


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