Why Editing Matters

Spell and grammar checking programs are wonderful for what they can do, but there are so many things they can’t provide. All too often I have tried to wade through self-published books that weren’t edited properly (or at all) only to find myself bogged down in prose that contains countless errors. A few of the most common ones are misplaced, wrongly used or omitted words, run-on sentences, frequent redundancy, misuse of commas, subjective and objective case mistakes and lack of subject-verb agreement.

Unfortunately, readers may dismiss or devalue what is shared in a book that is rife with grammatical or other writing problems. The author ends up sounding unprofessional. Worse yet, a reader may put down the book because it is too much of a struggle to read.

Not long ago a business acquaintance asked me to write a review of her unedited self-published novel. My friend definitely has a natural talent for storytelling, a delightful imagination and a wonderful wit. Grammatical expertise, however, is not in her skill set, and sadly she chose to publish without the benefit of a copy editor. Her book contained numerous sentences that I had to reread to figure out what was being said. From page one, there were problems with word usage and grammar that interrupted the flow of her writing.

In this fiction work, the story itself was brilliant. Yet, there were sections of lengthy exposition that a good content editor could have convinced her to pare down to something that contained the weight and scope of the idea without overwhelming the reader with numerous pages of philosophy. As a developmental/content editor, I would have told my friend that ideology expressed through scenes, actions and characterization may convince the reader much more readily than a full chapter of nothing except the lengthy expression of a principle.

Thankfully, despite the difficulty in navigating the writing and grammatical issues, I was able to find good things to say about the plot. In order to be both kind and truthful, my brief review spoke entirely to story and character. When it came to the grammar and writing, I simply applied the old adage, “If you can’t find something good to say, say nothing at all.”

I came away from that experience knowing that I needed to convince friends and colleagues to hire an editor before self-publishing. If you have read self-published books that weren’t edited, you probably recognize the importance of seeking help from a qualified professional. Both fiction and nonfiction require clarity, flow and comprehensible style. Otherwise, a reader who isn’t a colleague or friend will simply put the book aside and lose the opportunity to connect to your story, wisdom, insight and knowledge.