Giving your work to an editor is scary. I get it. I really do.
You’ve labored over something, thought about it for a long time, made an enormous effort to organize your thoughts and transform them into a coherent, well-structured text. And then you send it to a stranger, perhaps the first person who will look at it besides you, who will read it, change it, and leave her thoughts along the way. What is to say that an editor is not going to make your text worse? Why would you trust someone with it?
As someone who has several publications to her name, I understand this feeling. I’ve always been very reluctant to send my work out for commenting or correction. As an editor therefore, I am always humbled by the trust my clients bestow on me by sending me their manuscripts and allowing me to work on them.
I want to assure you that good editors do not betray that trust. As an editor, I follow three principles to make sure that your work is in safe hands: I am careful, transparent, and flexible. I am stealing these three principles from Carol Fisher Saller’s The Subversive Copyeditor, pp. 14–16. I purchased this book a while ago and we’re currently reading parts of it in my copyediting course at Queens University, Canada.
To be careful means that before I even start working on your manuscript, we clearly define the scope of my work together. Do you want me to improve your language and expression or just your grammar? What style should I use? Do you want me to format your headings? It means that I always use track changes so that you can see exactly what I’ve done and can accept or reject it.
To be transparent means that if I have to make a decision that affects the entire manuscript (about capitalizing headings, for example) and that we didn’t discuss beforehand, I contact you before I go ahead. It means that I will explain any changes I made if they’re not obvious. It means that for larger manuscripts, I will keep a style sheet where I record all decisions I made in relation to spelling, style, punctuation, and so on, and I share this with you when the job is finished.
Finally, to be flexible means that I will listen to you and negotiate. If a term shouldn’t be capitalized according to the style we are using, but you have a reason for writing it in that way, I will listen. If you don’t agree with a change I made, let’s talk about it. It is your work, at the end! My job is to make your writing accurate, consistent, and correct.
So, please don’t be afraid to send me your work, I promise that I will respect it and treat it the way I would want my own work to be treated!