This is a selection of common questions relating to editing and proofreading. If you can’t find what you are looking for, please contact me with your question.
- Why do I need a proofreader?
- Why do I, the author, need a copyeditor?
- Why do I, the publisher/company/organisation, need a copyeditor?
- How long will it take to proofread or copyedit my book?
- How much will it cost?
- What subjects do you cover?
- Do you edit fiction?
- Do you edit US English (or other non-UK Englishes)?
- English is not my first language. Can you still help me?
- Do you provide services for PhD students?
- Will you change my writing style?
- What if I don’t like your work?
- What information should I provide in my first email?
- Can you help me find a publisher?
- Can you advise me on becoming an editor?
- Do you have a code of practice?
Why do I need a proofreader?
No-one should proofread their own work. Because you know what should be on the page, that is what you see, even if there is an obvious error present. A fresh eye will not see the same pattern as you do, and will pick up the mistakes. A professional proofreader is also trained to keep changes from causing expensive alterations to page layout, so saving you and your company money.
Why do I, the author, need a copyeditor?
You may have been creating your work over a long period. You know it well enough to recite parts of it from memory. How could anyone else make it better? Unfortunately, familiarity with your text may keep you from seeing its flaws. You cannot sit down and look at it from a new reader’s perspective. But a copyeditor can. More than that, while an ordinary reader may spot the weaknesses but not know how to improve them, a copyeditor is trained to remove grammar errors, to correct spelling, and to re-order a flabby argument to produce one that is tight and cohesive. The copyeditor will also know how to mark up your text for publication, so that it has a smooth run through typesetting and proofreading.
Why do I, the publisher / company / organisation, need a copyeditor?
Much of the previous answer is relevant here. A good copyeditor will also ensure that your company/organisation is shown in the best possible light. While few people can write well, many more can spot a poor publication and will assume that such publications are a fair indication of the competence of your company/organisation.
How long will it take to proofread or copyedit my book?
It depends! I might be able to proofread a well-prepared set of proofs at about 4000 words per hour. But more complicated texts, or ones that have been poorly prepared, could take twice or three times as long.
It’s much harder to calculate the time required for copyediting because it depends so much on the state of text. My editing rate varies from around 3500 words an hour to just 800 words an hour. So you can see that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all rate. I will always ask for a sample of the text so that I can edit a part of that and use it as a guide to provide a rough estimate.
Sometimes I start work and find that there is more to do than I originally thought. In that case I will contact you immediately with a revised deadline and cost estimate.
How much will it cost?
My minimum rates are based on those suggested by the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, but I will often charge more than these because I have lots of experience. You will be able to find people who will do editorial work for lower rates, but they may be untrained or inexperienced or both. I am happy to discuss working at an hourly rate or for a fixed sum for the whole project.
What subjects do you cover?
I work in most areas of the humanities and social sciences, but my main subjects (specialisms in bold) are:
- History (general, history of science, sixteenth century, seventeenth century, church history, art history)
- Music (general classical, choral, vocal, Renaissance, opera, chamber music, theory)
- Theology (general Christian, doctrine, Christology, church history, history of theology)
- Museum Studies
- Architectural History
- Art History
- Cinema/Film Studies
- Ecclesiastical Law
If your subject isn’t here, I may still be able to help you. Do contact me to ask.
I do not work on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) or medical materials. Nor do I edit fiction.
Do you edit fiction?
No, I don’t work on fiction. The skills needed to edit fiction texts are very different from those for non-fiction writing, and I’m not trained in them. You can find many highly qualified fiction editors in the CIEP directory.
Do you edit US English (or other non-UK Englishes)?
Yes, I’m happy to work on texts for the US and other markets. I have worked extensively with US authors and also for publishers based in the US.
English is not my first language. Can you still help me?
Yes, I can! Many of my author clients are people who write in English as their second (or third or even fourth) language. I have many years of experience helping authors like this to navigate the complexities of English grammar and idiom, so that their writing flows smoothly and naturally.
Do you provide services for PhD students?
I don’t proofread theses or dissertations. There are many CIEP members who do provide these services: see the CIEP directory. However, I am happy to help with preparation of an academic article for publication even if you are still a student.
Will you change my writing style?
I may need to change small aspects of your style to match the requirements of your publisher. For example, that might mean changes to spelling, punctuation, and hyphenation. I will also adjust sentences that are unclear or where the text is stilted. However, I will always aim to maintain your underlying voice, and I will not impose changes that are purely a matter of personal preference.
What if I don’t like your work?
I hope that won’t happen! Before we agree on a project, I will send a sample edit for your approval. I will use tracked changes to mark up my editing, so that you can see immediately what I have done. If you don’t like my editing style then there is no obligation for you to continue to work with me.
Once you have employed me to work on your text, you have accepted a contract for my services, and I will charge you accordingly. As before, I will use tracked changes throughout the editing process (except for changes that are required by the publisher’s style), and you are free to accept or reject those changes. However, there will be no refund if you don’t like the work as a whole.
What information should I provide in my first email?
I often get emails that say something like ‘I have a book that is 79,000 words long. How long will it take you to proofread and what will it cost?’ This doesn’t tell me enough to give you the information that you need. So it’s worth taking the time to say a little more about your project. Here are some things that I would like to know:
- what the subject matter is
- how long the text is
- whether there are notes, references, tables, etc (these all take longer to edit than the main text)
- whether you have a particular journal or publisher in mind
- who your target audience is
- when you need the work to be done by.
All of this information will help me to work out whether your subject is one that fits my specialisms and whether I can fit your project in by the time that you need it to be done. If the answer to both of these is yes, I will contact you to ask for a sample of the text. I will produce a free no-obligation edit of a short section of that sample, and send you a quotation at the same time.
Can you help me find a publisher?
If you don’t already have a contract for a publisher, then I won’t offer to do this for you, or give you advice on the best publishers to approach. However, I will shape your text so that it is consistent in style and substance, and so that it sets your ideas out clearly. These processes will make it more likely that your work will be accepted by a publisher.
Can you advise me on becoming an editor or proofreader?
If you are interested in working as an editor or proofreader yourself, my best advice is to visit the website of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, where you will find a detailed section on working as a proofreader or editor.
Do you have a code of practice?
Yes. All members of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) must abide by its Code of Practice (CoP). To quote from the website introduction to that document:
The purpose of the CoP is to establish standards of best practice for CIEP members and help them maintain them and to encourage good professional relationships.
Good communication between client/employer and freelance/employee is essential. Clear brief and the agreement of terms are vital if high standards are to be maintained by both parties, and unsurprisingly they’re emphasised by the CoP.
In addition, the CoP includes guidance on: the professional behaviour of both freelance/employee and client/employer; standards for proofreading, editing and project management; and information on web editing, electronic file handling, email etiquette, confidentiality and computer security.
The CoP is endorsed by the CIEP Council. Although it isn’t a legal document, it’s considered binding on members and corporate subscribers.