“An author working without a professional proofreader is a bit like a school bus with no brakes speeding toward a cliff on an icy road. And the school bus is on fire, and an angry ninja is stabbing the driver in the head.” – Scott Lynch
What is a proofreader’s job? What does an editor do? What’s the difference between an editor and a proofreader? And what are all these different kinds of editing – what’s style editing, what’s structural editing, what’s developmental editing, and who will help me kill the ninja? At last, the answers you need – in simple ninja terms.
Proofreading: Stops the ninja and puts out the fire
Your book’s about to go to press – but it’s on fire and the ninja is stabbing the driver in the head. The Proofreader steps in, puts out the fire, and stops the ninja. Hurrah! Or, in more pedestrian terms, they get rid of all the errors, so you have…
- perfect, natural grammar
- correct punctuation and spelling
- appropriate word choices (eg. I affect something and have an effect)
- logical and style-guide consistency
- basic fact-checking (Did Einstein really say that…?)
This is the last step before you go to print. But if the bus is hurtling about jolting all its screaming passengers, that’s not a job for The Proofreader. Enter… The Editor!
Style editing: a smoother journey
The Style Editor turns a screaming journey to hell into a smooth and easy ride, where an attractive steward serves drinks and nibbles to the passengers.
Style editing makes your book a pleasure to read. It improves your style so the writing flows smoothly and hits the right tone for the reader:
- changing sentence structure
- rewording phrases
- altering word choice for better style
- reorganising sentences within paragraphs
So, an easy ride – but what if the bus is going in the wrong direction, headed straight for the cliff, shedding hubcaps and doors in its wake? Bring on… the Structural Editor!
Structural editing: a better journey-plan and a better bus
This is the big stuff, where we spread out the whole journey map and overhaul the bus itself. When your book (or “bus”) is jerky and uneven, lurching from subject to subject, talking about chapter 2 throughout chapter 10, and generally a bit muddled, The Structural Editor swoops down with God-like perspective and arcane skills to put it all right:
- a thorough analysis of your book’s structure
- reorganising chapters, sections, & paragraphs
- adding occasional segue sentences
- rewording to link ideas together
Suddenly that wild crazy ride of London to Paris via Sydney to see Victoria Falls is a blissful, smooth-running world tour. (Or, if you prefer, a well-organised book.) The Structural Editor’s God-like powers are a last resort, though. If you want your journey planned well from the beginning, you need… The Development Editor.
Developmental editing: all problems avoided
When The Development Editor is on your side, the bus journey doesn’t go wrong in the first place. Before the bus leaves, this editor tells you where the fire will break out, how to stop the ninja getting on board, which roads are gritted, and how to avoid the cliff.
This is the person who works with you from the beginning of the book, either as a book coach or through a series of reviews, to help you shape it. They help you plan, advise on style, keep an eye on the overall structure, and hold you accountable to your deadlines.
See? Everything is easier if you just think in terms of ninjas. And remember…
Want your book sorted out? Get whatever help you need to make your expert book shine.
Hat-tilts and gratitudes
- Kudos to Andrew Kerr, brother and dinosaur guru, for the Scott Lynch quote.
- Scott Lynch writes the awesome Gentlemen Bastard books, which open with The Lies of Locke Lamara. You should read it.
- Thank you, JeanWebMachine, for having a picture of a ninja on fire. And the Internet said, “Ask and it shall be given unto you.”
- The Serenading Stewards are from Northern Belle’s Trip Advisor page
- The bus mechanic is from London Transport’s Online Museum
- The ninjas-and-fire meme “is based off a comic called The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, in which the main character uses his logic in order to come to the conclusion that ninjas would not want to attack a man on fire. The panels shown was originally printed on August 23, 2006, in the comic D.A.R.E. To Resist Ninja Drugs and Ninja Violence Part 1, on page 15.” Thank you, Know Your Meme, for letting me copy your homework.