I could make this post super easy and short for you.
No, editors of all types cannot promise you perfection. Any editor that does is lying.
But, let’s delve deeper.
Any person’s writing is flawed by default. That’s the privilege we have of being unique individuals with individual thoughts, experiences, and passions. We must embrace the flaws within our writing to a certain extent. Those flaws create the individuality that an audience craves to read. Nobody wants to read the same writing style, structure, and format.
And anyway, what even is perfection? I bet if we put 20 people in a room and asked them this question, we’d get 20 different answers. Because the idea, the actual meaning of perfect is open to interpretation.
So, as a writer, embrace those qualities within your writing that you believe cause imperfection.
Looking at this from a different angle, what do we want a copy editor to perfect?
- Grammar, punctuation, spelling.
The part of this list that any writer will want to achieve perfection in is grammar. Grammar is annoying. Typos and errors can stick out like a sore thumb, ruining the reader’s perception. Any editor will want to get the writing they’re working on as error-free as possible. But aiming for 100% perfected grammar isn’t attainable. There are bound to be a few specific errors left. No editor can promise that they will catch everything. The plus side is that those errors left in are probably so complicated and inconspicuous that they won’t be noticed anyway.
Consistency is something we want to try and achieve perfection within because it creates polished-looking prose. Your audience has increased understanding and engagement. There’s less chance of confusion. Can you achieve perfection with your consistency? I believe you can pretty much get 99% when you put the groundwork in and have decent editing and proofreading to help. But again, can you promise that you won’t forget you gave a random character the name Meghan and not Megan? I don’t know.
When we come to flow & readability, I believe we hit a grey area. What one person deems as good flow can differ from another person. Which way is perfect? It’s open to interpretation.
Facts and clarity refer to your dates, times, place names, historical events, etc. All good editors will know to fact-check your writing, but again, you can’t promise to get everything 100% correct.
When you hire an editor, don’t start the process expecting perfection. I couldn’t make that judgement, and would never make that promise. What you can believe is that your editor will work damn hard and try their very best to get as close to perfection as possible, and that’s the important thing. Let the idea of perfection go! Feeling happy and accomplished is a much more attainable goal.