The more freelance editors/proofreaders out there who don’t have a goddamn clue how to handle even the most basic aspects of writing (punctuating compound sentences, noun-verb agreement, choosing the right homophone, choosing the right adjective, when to end a sentence with a question mark and when not to), the better I look just for knowing what I’m doing, right?
Alas, this is not the case…
For one thing, every freelancer who does his/her job badly makes all of us look bad. I’m sure all you indie authors can sympathize, because the same thing happens to you: someone self-pubs a piece of crap on Amazon, and someone else points to it as supposed proof that all indie authors, everywhere, all the time, write only crap. It isn’t fair, and it isn’t right or even rational, but many humans like to lump things into tidy, simplistic categories, and it’s easier to say, “They’re all wrong,” than it is to say, “This one is wrong, so I’ll go find one who isn’t.”
For another thing, bad editing leads to writers and readers not knowing good, competent editing when they see it. (See, it’s not the internet’s fault — or not just the internet’s fault, anyway. Bad grammar and spelling have always been with us; the internet only makes us more aware of it.)
♦ Inappropriate capitalization
♦ Apostrophes missing from contractions and possessives, or the same added to plurals
♦ Incorrect verb forms
♦ Random commas
♦ Frequent misspellings
If you see any (or worse yet, all!) of these things on a freelance editor’s web site, take it as a warning and look elsewhere for someone to edit your manuscript.
(I have seen all of these, and more, on freelance editors’ web sites. What, do you think this rant just came up out of nowhere? *shakes head*)
Sure, there’s such a thing as being informal in one’s writing (Mercenary Proofreader makes sure to use at least one incomplete sentence every day), but there’s also such a thing as having no idea when to use incomplete sentences and when not to use them.
There’s a big difference in meaning between can’t and cant, and an editor who doesn’t use apostrophes correctly on his/her own professional web page can’t be trusted to use them correctly when working on your manuscript, either.
Just FYI, my spies are everywhere. *sinister laughter* Sometimes I have a friend or two contact one of my fellow freelance editors who offers sample edits, and I have that friend send a piece of my writing to be edited… Sometimes the result is good, but two times out of three, the “corrections” I get back are awful. (Kids, I do have a print copy of The Chicago Manual of Style here on my desk. There has yet to be a single instance where it disagreed with me on a matter of grammar, punctuation, or whatever. Think about that before you comment on this post, ‘Oh, if that other editor says you wrote something wrong you should not of said your right, maybe your the one who always made a mistake?!’ Also, any “editor” who tells me to remove every comma that separates a direct address from the rest of a sentence is wrong — stupidly wrong.)
I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again now: I was a reader many, many years before I became an editor. As a reader, I don’t care who an author has edit her/his novel, only that it is edited by someone who knows what they’re doing. (I can think of a few who do know what they’re doing. Maybe I should arrange to interview them on this blog sometime…) As an editor, competition doesn’t worry me. I would like to see more competent freelance editors out there — we all know they’re desperately needed!
Even if their web page looks good, if you’re thinking of hiring a freelance editor to help polish your novel (or short story, or whatever), get a free sample edit first. If they don’t offer it, ask. If they say no, don’t hire them. If you get a free sample edit, and it looks awful (meaning the editor is clueless/incompetent/hates your genre and everything about it, not that they made a lot of corrections and suggestions for changes), don’t hire them. Find someone else. That editor being the wrong choice for you (for whatever reason) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire an editor at all.
Just, y’know, do your research first so you don’t hire one of the stupid ones.