After editing/proofreading, will my book/website/document etc. be perfect?

Writers often believe that having paid for editing or proofreading, their work will then be perfect and 100% error-free. I believe it’s very important to be honest about ‘perfection’ upfront. I aim for perfection, but there are other issues to bear in mind.

Firstly, editing is as much an art as it is a science.

  • Very often there will be more than one way to edit a passage. One editor might follow the guidance provided in New Hart’s Rules, while another might follow the Chicago Manual of Style and make different editorial decisions.
  • Grammatical errors need to be corrected, but sometimes there is more than one approach to choose from, each of which will subtly alter the sentence’s tone or even meaning.
  • Editors and readers alike can differ quite passionately in their views on such issues as the Oxford comma!
  • Editing often involves judgement calls which not everyone will agree on.

Secondly, the level of accuracy possible will largely depend on how much editing has gone before.

If I am the first person to edit your document, it is likely that I will be making thousands of decisions – to correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, check consistency, spot issues in timeline or pacing, check facts, attend to formatting issues and more. With that much to attend to, I could not guarantee to pick up every single incorrectly placed comma on the first pass. I am only human!

This is precisely why publishing companies invest in several rounds of editing for every book they publish – they know that it takes that many to identify all the problems.

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) has this to say:

How good is ‘good enough’?

CIEP mentors have standards for what is good enough in proofreading. […]

An experienced professional proofreader, reading a copyedited typescript, should be able to spot and deal appropriately with at least 80% of all errors but at least 90% of typos – other things being equal. […]

No publication is likely to be good enough if it has not been edited. However, copyeditors do a lot more than pick up mistakes, so they may not catch all of them, especially if the material is complex, difficult or badly written.

So, I cannot guarantee that your book/document will be perfect when I have finished with it. That would be misleading and unethical. What I can guarantee is that I will do my very best and aim for the very highest standards. I can also guarantee that the changes I make will result in a much higher quality piece of writing.

Design and layout

There is no one right way to design and format your book. There are certain industry standards to adhere to, but even these vary. Take a few books from your shelf and look at the copyright page, for example. It’s is very likely that they will all differ slightly in wording.

People will have different opinions of the font they feel works best, or the margins they prefer.

When designing and formatting your book I will consult with you every step of the way. Although I will advise on what I feel would fit best, the final decision rests with you, and it is your responsibility to ensure that you are happy with the choices made.