Re: What real editors really do (and why writers should avoid freelancers)
Published in The Globe and Mail on Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Russell Smith confuses two things: types of editing, and whether the editor is freelance or in-house. The various editorial steps a manuscript can go through are pretty much as Russell describes: acquisitions (deciding which books to publish); structural or substantive editing (making or suggesting the major changes described in the article); stylistic editing (basically reworking the manuscript line by line to make it a good read); copy editing (checking for problems in grammar and spelling); and proofreading (checking the final document once it has been through design).
Other than acquisitions (which is by its nature an in-house function), freelance editors perform all of these functions alongside in-house editors. Freelance editors are not just copy editors. Many of the most prominent books published in Canada and elsewhere have been entirely edited by freelancers.
For 20 years, the Editors’ Association of Canada has published Professional Editorial Standards. These standards set out what editors should do when performing various stages of editing and they tell employers what to expect from the editors they hire, whether they are freelance or in-house. EAC also publishes Meeting Professional Editorial Standards, which helps train editors in the various tasks. As well, EAC’s rigorous certification tests evaluate professional editing excellence, knowledge and skill. So there are standards, there are (effectively) checklists, and there is professional certification. EAC even teaches people how to fact-check.
Michelle Boulton, President
Greg Ioannou, Vice President
Editors’ Association of Canada/Association canadienne des réviseurs