6 things to tell your editor before they start

6 things to tell your editor before they start

You want to equip your editor with all the information they need to do the job. What information should you provide when handing over your manuscript?

It’s always a good idea for you and your editor to get on the same page before starting out. You don’t want to waste your time (and money) by relying on chance and assumptions, and receive something back that wasn’t what you needed. 

Here is the information you should provide to your editor before they start working on your document.

☑ Expectations: What you want the editor to do

What kind of “editing” do you want? Proofreading and copyediting are not the same thing, for example. There’s a difference between wanting the editor to look at, for example, the overall structure/logic (sometimes called “line editing”) vs. “please only focus on typos and incorrect grammar“.

If you aren’t sure which service you need, take a look at this chart.

Whatever it is that you need, make sure your editor knows what you expect from them. It will also help them give you a more accurate estimate of the cost.

☑ Target audience

Make sure the editor knows how your document is going to be used and who the audience is. For example, is it

  • a submission to an academic journal
  • a web article—and is it for a general readership or for professionals in your field?
  • a formal document to submit to a donor
  • a welcome letter to potential program applicants (and who are they?)

This will help focus the editor’s interventions.

☑ Style, spelling, punctuation

Do you need to follow a specific style (APA/Chicago/EU/United Nations/Australian/MLA, a custom style)? Do you have a dictionary you’d like the editor to follow?

Clarify whether you want American vs. British spelling/punctuation (if not evident).

If you will use words that are specific to your field or not in regular dictionaries, give your preferred spellings, including capitalizations. For example:

  • tele-migration (hyphenated) vs. telemigration
  • new build vs. newbuild (one word or two)
  • Government vs. government (capitalize or not)

Also, if your manuscript contains hyperlinks, give instructions on how you want them formatted. For example, do you want the text linked text, like you see on a webpage? Or should the URL be fully written out in the text, as in a printed book?

HINT: This is where a style sheet can be super helpful. Learn what style sheets are and how to use them.

If you don’t have a specific style, you could also provide an example document for the editor to follow.

☑ File format: Track changes? Different format?

Presumably, if you’ve provided a Word document, that’s what you expect back. Do you want all changes tracked? Or do you want one file with tracked changes and another as a clean copy?

If you want it back in another format, like PDF, plain text, or PowerPoint slides, let your editor know before they start. You don’t want a situation where the editor has marked up your Word Doc, but then you can’t see any of the comments or tracked changes because you are using Pages.

HINT: If you find too many red tracked changes overwhelming/distracting/irritating, you can ask your editor to also return a clean copy.

☑ Schedule, deadlines

I love deadlines! Do indicate upfront by when you want the editor to send the revision back to you. You both need to figure out whether the schedule is reasonable or not before you sign a contract.

Most editors will charge an express fee for rush jobs—if they accept rush jobs. A responsible editor will decline the project if they don’t think they can reasonably meet your deadline.

Consider whether you want a round of back-and-forth with your editor. That means you will answer your editor’s first queries and the editor will incorporate your answers into the final submission. Remember that if you are late with your replies, that will push the whole schedule back.

☑ Payment schedule, when to send the invoice

You and the editor need to agree when the payments will be made. For larger projects, for example, many independent editors will ask for a deposit, including a non-refundable portion. The security of a steady income stream is a luxury freelancers do not have; booking their time means that they may be turning down other work. The deposit is to acknowledge that commitment.

Hope that helps for a smoother collaboration with your editor! Please leave me a comment if there are other things that should be on this list.

Get in touch to discuss whether we might be a good fit for your scholarly or international development writing project!

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