Who Needs an Editor?

Short answer – anyone who writes. Editing, like writing, is a human endeavor. The machines haven’t completely taken over, yet. Editors are still hired for their trained eye and ability to understand nuance in language, even with the availability of many editing software programs. Writing and storytelling is essentially human, and it often takes a human editor to correct and enhance the intricacies of the English language.

Editor Vs. Spell Check

If you use Microsoft Word, then you have a free little editor that flags spelling errors with a demanding, squiggly red line. With such a wonderful, built-in tool, what reason does the modern business owner have to hire an editor with a beating heart, whom also requires payment?

Well, instantaneous as it may be, spell check isn’t all that foolproof. It’s a handy tool that should be used after writing any document, but think of it as a quick wipe down of your words instead of a thorough polishing. For example:

  • Sometimes when a writer gets tired, she accidentally writes the same sentence twice. Sometimes when a writer gets tired, she accidentally writes the same sentence twice. But spell check in Microsoft Word will not pick up on it.
  • Spell check won’t catch it if you forget to put a period and start the next sentence with a capital letter Weird, right?
  • Sometimes that red line imposes itself where it doesn’t belong. Say you’re writing about cryptocurrency, that line will bleed red all over words it doesn’t recognize like Litecoin, Ethereum, and cryptowallet.

Editors Understand Style Guides

If you refuse to quit the spell check tool, and trust it when it says your document is free of errors, be aware that doesn’t mean your words are necessarily uniform, or even in the format you want. An error turns out to be subjective depending on your style guide.

  • AP style is most commonly used for news writing, though it’s often employed by many websites that generate online content that’s not necessarily newsworthy. The guiding principles of AP style are consistency, clarity, accuracy, and brevity.
  • Chicago style is used by authors writing in the humanities subject. However, this style has also gained favor in the publishing world, and is sometimes referred to as the “editor’s bible.” 
  • Local style is the tailored and intentional decisions made by the author for their written content. You might decide that your overarching style guide is AP, but you don’t want to use a serial comma. Or you may use Chicago, but because you have a large audience based in England, so you use UK spelling instead of U.S.

No matter which style guide you pick, it’s important that one is selected for consistency throughout your writing. Not just for correct spelling, but also for formatting and referencing continuity. Any professional editor worth their red pens will have physical copies of reference material in a variety of styles.

Spelling/Grammar Programs Don’t Have a Personality

No offense to them, but editing programs like spell check and Grammarly aren’t created to enhance your written content to emphasize the brand and personality of the larger business. They can’t look beyond a word’s technical correctness to understand if it’s the right fit for your company’s voice. Colloquialisms and turns of phrase are foreign to the computer grammar program. They won’t recognize when a word is too academic or if it implies an unintended innuendo. These are all skills specific to the trained, warm-blooded editor.

Madelyn’s Perspective

I recommend that anyone who has access to spell check in Word, and programs like Grammarly, take full use of them. Even though they’re not perfect, they’re a convenient second set of digital “eyes” for a quick scan of your content.

However, it’s important that any business owner is aware of the steep price they pay for minor errors in written content. A missed apostrophe, inconsistent spelling and capitalization, and generic writing can shatter your business identity. These errors lose customer confidence, which directly translates to whether they trust you with their money.

Despite technology’s brilliance, it has yet to surpass the professional editor. Language’s complexities are simply too human for the red squiggly line. When you’re serious about following a style guide and developing a brand voice, Madelyn’s Mark is here to help you with the right words.

Contact madelynsmark@gmail.com for a free consultation and quote.

We are the products of editing, rather than authorship — George Wald

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