Some things are best left to experts. Electric wiring. Plumbing. Car repairs. Editing. If you decide to cheap out and do it yourself when you lack the training and experience, you risk finding yourself shocked, all wet and left by the roadside …
Everyone makes mistakes. All it takes is a few words that can be misread horribly, amusingly or horribly amusingly, and you’ll get spread all over social media (and not for the reason you want) – or all over the floor of a courtroom (with a legal decision against you).
You can hire an editor when and as you need one, just like an electrician, plumber or mechanic. But don’t wait until you have a disaster – hire a professional to prevent disasters.
Editing disasters are real, expensive and damaging
Editors do a lot more than catch errors. They tighten your text and make it more effective in conveying your message to your audience. A text that hasn’t been professionally edited can often be spotted as easily as a fridge magnet can be distinguished from gallery art. But what really stands out is when lack of an editorial eye costs you money – and reputation.
It doesn’t matter who you are and what your responsibilities include.
You might be a government agency on the hook for thousands of dollars to reprint a report or policy that had obvious errors – or to remake a bronze plaque that misspells the name of a historical figure.
You might have a website trying to be hip but is actually breathtakingly insensitive.
Either way, you may have to recall the whole run and do major damage control in the media.
Embarrassing incidents happen in real life. A good editor can prevent them and save many times the editing fee. In fact, good editors do prevent things like this many times a day. You don’t hear about it because the mistakes were caught in time.
Independent editors are amazing and affordable, and they add value
When you’re dealing with the text that’s your face to the world, you can’t afford not to get a professional. A professional editor will most likely be ready, willing and able to tighten, strengthen and embarrassment-proof your text for less than the cost of the time it took to write it, let alone the time it would take you to rewrite it. They might even be able to have it back to you within an hour or two, especially if you have a good ongoing relationship. Good text pays for itself – with the reputation you won’t lose because of a job disastrously done.
If you don’t have an in-house editor on your staff, there are many advantages of using an independent editor. Here are a few of them:
- You save staff time – and you keep staff focused on the jobs they were hired for. That means you get more from your staff (and their job satisfaction will probably be higher when they’re not interrupted with proofreading assignments).
- You ensure consistency of style and vision when you have an ongoing relationship with your editor, and at the same time you only pay them for doing the job.
- You get a fresh external perspective that no-one inside your organisation can provide.
- You get somebody with the right tools and know how to use them. For example, many editors use PerfectIt, which is an application that finds consistency mistakes and enforces house style. It helps editors apply their judgment more efficiently, effectively and consistently than non-professionals can.
If you think you can’t hire an independent editor, think again!
You’re not the first person to think that an independent editor is out of the question. Here are some common reasons for not hiring an editor, together with how to address them so that you can deliver all the benefits for your organisation:
- The document is highly confidential and for legal reasons can’t be sent to anyone outside the company. This is what non-disclosure agreements are for. And if that isn’t possible, it’s a good reason to hire an in-house editor, because when something that important hits the world, any problems with it will become very big problems indeed.
- The text needs to be ready within an hour. This happens, and it’s why you should establish a good working relationship with a professional editor – or more than one. Any agency that might need to draw up contracts on very short order keeps a contract lawyer on retainer; editors are much less expensive and no less necessary. Build one into your process.
- Colleagues can proofread it. Giving the work to a colleague may pick up some mistakes, but co-workers are often reluctant to suggest revisions. You may create more editing disasters than you avoid.
How to find the right editor for you
Editors have a wide variety of areas of subject expertise and specialisation but they all have in common is that they really like helping other people communicate more effectively – and they’re very good at it. Every text you’ve really enjoyed or found useful has had one or more editors who helped make it that way, and you may even be able to hire those same editors.
In Australia, start with the Institute of Professional Editors and check their directory of members, which includes qualifications, experience and specialties. You’ll be amazed at the quality and variety of editors you’ll find.