6 things to tell your editor before she starts

6 things to tell your editor before she starts

decorative image: Checklist

You want to equip your editor with all the information she needs to do the job. What points 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 she starts 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 her. It will also help her give you a more accurate estimate for the cost.

☑ Target audience

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

Is it a submission to an academic journal? Is it a web article for a general readership or for professionals in your field? Is it a formal document to submit to a donor or something more casual and warm for a potential program applicant?

This will help focus the editor’s interventions.

☑ Style, spelling, punctuation

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

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?

Even if you’re not following an official style, 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, it’s helpful to give a list with your preferred spellings (e.g., “tele-migration” vs. “telemigration”; “new build” vs. “newbuild”), including capitalizations (e.g., “Government vs. government).

Also, if your manuscript contains hyperlinks, give instructions on how you want them formatted (e.g., as a linked text, like you see on a webpage? Or with the URL also in the text, as in a printed book?).

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

☑ File format: Track changes? Different format?

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

Presumably, if you’ve provided a Word document, that’s what you expect back. But you still might want to specify if you want tracked changes (or not). Or do you want one file with tracked changes and another as a clean copy?

And of course, if you want it back in PDF, plain text, or PowerPoint slides, etc., let your editor know before she starts. 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.

☑ Schedule, deadlines

I love deadlines! Do indicate up front 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 the editor is contracted.

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.

Ideally, you want to have time allocated for at least one round of back-and-forth (but not too many more), unless you’re prepared to take all comments and questions at once and fix those points yourself.

☑ 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 stream of income is one luxury freelancers do not have; booking their time means that they may be turning down other work. The deposit is to acknowledge that commitment.

I’m sure the editor will send you the invoice at some point, but I find it personally helpful when the client tells me: “I’ve received the document, it’s all clear, thanks, please send me your invoice.” 


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.

Want to work with an experienced academic editor? Please send me your inquiry via the contact form or email me at info@theclarityeditor.com.

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