Is Editing an Important Stage in Writing?

So you’ve written a book for the general or selected audience or your job requires you to write up articles or reports that are intended for business clients, whatever the case, the general consensus among writers is that the piece of work is ready to be published, bypassing that small but crucial step called editing. Most people think availing the services of an editing firm as an unnecessary expense and only delays the final outcome. However, even seasoned writers, with many bestsellers under their belt and who speak English as their first language, understand the need for editing.

As a rule, writers do not always think in a linear fashion; they do not always express themselves well at their first attempt at writing. They jump from one idea to another, discarding earlier ones and jotting down their thoughts as and when they come. The initial draft usually needs a lot of revising and structuring to make at least a marginal sense to the readers. As an editor, I have encountered many instances where writers have left their sentence incomplete, not because they don’t know what’s coming next, but because they’re so familiar with the subject that their mind subconsciously fills in the gaps. Inevitably, with all those thoughts chasing one after another and with the effort of capturing them in writing, writers can’t be expected at the same time to be mindful of that comma splice or dangling participle that creep in insidiously.

What any writer should ask themselves is this: At the end of your article or story, are you satisfied with the quality of your writing? Are you sure you have managed to express your views to the audience? If you are doubtful of the answer, then this is where editing comes in. The main objective of an editor is to ensure a reader can comprehend the written word without going crazy trying to figure out the gist of the book or article. Contrary to mainstream belief that all editors do is put a comma here and delete a colon there for reasons known only to them, there’s more to editing than meets the eye. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that editing is as important as the writing process itself. Editing focuses on the sentence level, making sure the ideas or thoughts flow in a logical sequence, weeding out discrepancies, discarding the clutter, cross-checking spellings and information, so that the poor readers are not left to struggle through haphazard ideas, redundancy, repetition, spelling mistakes, inaccurate information, inconsistent style, and so on. In addition, the editor needs to ensure there are little to no grammar errors, which can be a challenging task in itself, keeping in mind the myriad rules of grammar and the evolving trends of the English language. An editor needs to accomplish all this without taking away the stamp of the author.

All writers would agree that the principle aim of writing is to edify and educate the readers. But imagine an article or report that is so informative on the subject matter but suffers in the writing, riddled with poor sentence construction, half-formed thoughts, ridiculous spelling errors, bad grammar, etc. The audience might not come back for a second read, and more importantly, the credibility of the writer is brought into question.

If, however, you think the spell checker would suffice, then perhaps the following reasons will give pause for reconsideration. As an algorithm-based program, the spell checker is definitely limited in its scope for nosing out errors, aside from the obvious it misses as many errors as it catches. Its suggestions may most likely change the meaning of your sentence or sometimes not even make sense. It can’t identify a wrong word (though correctly spelled) used at the wrong place. In addition, it might point out technical words as errors because they are not found in its in-built dictionary.

On the other hand, the editor not only fixes grammatical errors but also offers qualitative suggestions that could fine-tune your report. It would be almost impossible for a writer, especially book authors, to not form a sort of attachment with their writing that they can’t look at their work critically. As an unbiased party, the editor can come in useful at this stage with their suggestions and comments as they read the work from a reader’s perspective, pointing out logical gaps, questioning why and how, asking for clarification, etc. In conclusion, a conscientious editor could improve the tone and quality of your work and save valuable time and cost.