Writing and editing require very different skills and writers and editors have very different roles. Writers and editors are both required to produce a written work whether it be a report, submission or publication; for the purposes of this article we will call the written work a 'document'.
After the writer has written the first draft of the document, they then self-edit the document once, twice or multiple times and continue working on the document until they feel it has been perfected to the best of their ability as a writer. However:
At this stage, the writer needs an editor.
There are several stages of editing required prior to the proofreading stage including structural editing, line editing and copy editing. Depending on the type of document, different editors may be delegated to complete the different stages of editing or only one editor may be involved in the whole editing process prior to proofreading stage.
Before editing the document, the editor needs to confirm the guidelines that will be used. In Australia, all government publications as well as many other types of publications need to be edited in accordance with the (Australian government) Style Manual which is now in its 6th Edition, and this manual can be used as a guide to editing all Australian publications unless there is another style manual or guideline that needs to be used. The writer may have their own preferences in regard to some aspects of style such as capitalising certain words, or using a particular dot point style, and the editor will need to negotiate with the writer in regard to any consistencies between the writer's preferences and the manual being used.
Before commencing, the editor also needs to commence a 'style sheet' which is a list of rules for the publication. The style sheet might include a certain choice of spelling for a word, the capitilisation of certain words, and fonts to be used for various levels of text. The editor refers to the style sheet as well as the manual to ensure the same rules are applied consistently throughout the document. All the editors involved as well as the proofreader refers to the style sheet and manual throughout the editing and proofreading process.
The role of the editor (or editors) is to:
The information in this article reflects my main area of expertise and experience which is editing non-fiction publications, corporate reports, submissions and policy documents that require several stages of editing prior to proofreading and publication.
I will write an article about editing works of fiction (novels, poetry, short stories) at a later date.
This article is based on my own experience over the past 20 years, editing and proofreading reports, policy documents, and my own and others' publications; self-publishing mainly non-fiction hardcopy publications; and publishing my website and articles online. Keep posted for future articles about editors and editing, proofreaders and proofreading.