Sometimes editing is like cleaning your house – when the floor is vacuumed and mopped, the washing folded and the bathrooms cleaned, the effort involved is almost invisible. But when the bins overflow or the washing piles up, it’s noticeable. With editing, no one ever reads a book and exclaims, ‘My goodness, every word was spelt correctly and look at that perfectly punctuated dialogue!’ But if there’s one typo, there’s a complaint!
Of course, there’s a lot more to editing than spelling, grammar and punctuation. And most authors will thank their editor profusely in the acknowledgements because the editor usually understands exactly what they’re trying to express and helps them to realise their vision for their book.
I proofread a manuscript on social media this week. The book was well-written and needed little correction, except for inconsistent bullet lists. Perhaps no one would notice whether one page had bullet lists with fullstops and capital letters because each bullet point was a complete sentence and another page had lists with lower case letters and no fullstops because each bullet point completed the leading phrase. But consistency is important and visual elements like lists do help the reader to focus on the text.
Just like housework, there are many invisible jobs to do with editing but there’s a sense of satisfaction in having a clean bathroom and a neat set of bullet points! And as I’ve spent more time editing than cleaning in the last month, there’ll be a little cleaning catching up to do (for the whole family) this weekend!
What editing mistake or cleaning job frustrates you the most?