What is editing?

Editing takes the raw material (which is usually a book) and makes it ready for publication (after proofreading, of course).


The aim of editing is to ensure that whatever appears in public is accurate, easy to follow, fit for purpose and free of error, omission, inconsistency and repetition. This process picks up embarrassing mistakes, ambiguities and anomalies, and alerts the client to possible legal problems.



What does an editor do?

An editor begins by checking that the copy is complete. Do the chapter titles and other elements match the list of contents? Are all the illustrations to hand? Is there a list of captions? What system of referencing is required? Are there footnotes or endnotes? Then the editor cleans up a copy of the document, fixes page set-up, spacing and fonts, cuts unwanted formatting, and creates a stylesheet.


Working through the material, the editor corrects errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, style and usage, but also very long sentences and overuse of italic, bold, capitals, exclamation marks and the passive voice. They correct or query doubtful facts, plot holes, gaps in numbering, check characters haven't changed their name or hair colour, look for sudden changes from first to third person and monitor the timeline.


At the same time, the editor is also looking at the bigger picture:

  • Content and structure

  • Information chunks

  • Illustrations, graphs and tables

  • Wording

  • Consistency

  • Accuracy and anomalies

  • Legal issues such as plagiarism, breach of copyright, libel, obscenity or incitement to racial hatred.