“I just use spellcheck. I don’t see why I would need to pay you to do what my computer can do.”
This was said to me a few years ago, with unabashed disdain, by one of the parents from my son’s scout troop. We were stuffing envelopes for a fundraiser and chatting about what we all do for a living when I mentioned I’m a freelance editor. It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this question, nor will it be the last. With continual advancements in software, word processing programs are more robust than ever before. For that matter, spellcheck functions are written into a number of programs we use on a daily basis, catching many of our typos and errors before we send our words into the world.
So why do you need an editor? I’ll share with you what I shared with her and the other parents seated around those folding tables that evening: An editor is not a human spellcheck program. Sure, your word processor is sophisticated enough that it even checks your grammar, and there are a number of add-on programs that are valuable writing aids. But does your spellcheck catch that you meant to write “public toilet” and not “pubic toilet”? Both terms are spelled correctly.
An editor offers professional expertise beyond just spelling and grammar. An editor brings to your writing an understanding of language and its rules, and most importantly when it’s okay to break those rules. Were you taught that it’s never okay to end a sentence with a preposition, or start a sentence with “And”? (Spoiler: sometimes it’s okay to do both.)
A good editor will help refine your words so that your voice comes through to your readers in a clear, confident way that is both error-free and superbly crafted. Good editors don’t just remove extraneous words—they know when to leave well enough alone.
Whether you’ve written a simple marketing newsletter, a short blog post, or the first in a series of fiction novels, I encourage you to seek out the services of an excellent editor. You will find that your words will go from mere communication to becoming your shining voice embodied in type.