The point is, you may be able to give someone with a great deal of talent a decent beginning while they help you polish and finalize your book without breaking the bank. To determine whether someone is a good editor, you should look for several personal traits and ask some very specific questions of your potential editor. Read on to learn more.
While there's nothing inherently wrong with using grammar correction software as a first pass, the human element is completely missing, so all of your fine nuances and clever jokes and poetic license words may not make it through the software's pass. Take a look at the following findings of a study done over the course of 10 years by Daniel Kies of the Department of English, College of DuPage.
Grammar checkers typically only found 6 or 7 errors out of the 20 errors.
Grammar checkers often offered the wrong advice.
Grammar checkers have not improved their performance since the mid-1990s.
“After ten years of benchmarking the progress of these grammar checking programs, not one of them has made significant improvements toward creating a system that can reliably find and correct the twenty most common usage errors made by first year composition students at American colleges and universities. In ten years of product development, Microsoft, for example, has only managed to improve Word’s grammar checking functionality a mere 10%, judging by these test results – small improvement.” - Daniel Kies
It means you have to go through your manuscript the old-fashioned way to catch all of the mistakes. The grammar checker might help you with that a bit, but take the whole thing with a grain of salt.
On a personal note, grammar checking software is, in my opinion, a lot like translation software. If you can program certain things into it yourself (like in Word, where you can add words to the dictionary), then it becomes tailored to you and your writing style. However, if that isn't a possibility...
Grammar checking software ends up creating more work than it eliminates.
It is not!
With that being said, let's take a look at which traits signify that someone is a good editor.
The Top 5 Traits of a Good Editor
I can tell you from personal experience that this is a very sight- and mind-intensive job, so be patient with your editor. He/she is essentially going through your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb (quick editorial aside: "fine-toothed" is more formal while "fine-tooth" is still acceptable; I tend to go for classic correctness over trends, though, and I bring it up only to illustrate exactly how much an editor has to keep track of all at once) to correct as many errors as humanly possible. Sometimes that takes two or three passes, especially if your editor has been overworked and misses things simply by trying to get done more quickly. An eight-hour day of editing tends to mean a lot of sitting, staring at a screen, research and fact-checking where needed... and sitting means death (how do you think I ended up gaining 100-120 lbs?) and all sorts of health problems.
2. Respect is, of course, essential in any professional relationship, so your editor should always treat you with respect, answer your questions patiently but honestly, and explain changes that don't make sense to you. Sometimes your editor may need to be brutally honest or very blunt; don't be offended, just try to remember that your editor is looking out for your best interests as well as your readers' best interests by preventing your book from being one that might perpetuate illiteracy within society.
3. Every sentence, every word, and every punctuation mark are important and used to communicate specific nuances and meanings. If any of this is incorrect, you may wind up with a hellacious misunderstanding... or worse.
To save time, you might consider doing some research and looking up the instance that you're confused about so that your editor doesn't take on additional busywork (this is especially true if you got a good deal on the service; don't make your editor regret it by throwing busywork at them because you can't be bothered to use the Google machine yourself... just saying).
5. Your editor should be confident but not ego-driven. The difference is that a confident editor will have no issues admitting that he/she is wrong about something, whereas an ego-driven editor will stubbornly stick with his/her stance without looking at any evidence or resources that prove them wrong. A good editor will know how to work with you and guide you without coming across as harsh or condescending... while still being honest.
Thanks for joining me again here on the No Bull Blog! I hope you're enjoying your weekend and stay tuned for more useful articles as the month goes on =).
Stay awesome, self-pubbers!