Can editors provide you with perfection?

I could make this post super easy and short for you.

No.

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.
  • Consistency.
  • Facts.
  • Flow.
  • Clarity.

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.

Published by Amy Ollerton

Hi! I'm Amy—a professional copy editor and proofreader living in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. I provide friendly, personalised services that boost writing while retaining the author's unique style and voice. I write a little myself, shown through my blog. Alongside my work, I read books, enjoy baking, and explore the Highlands with my partner and my dog, Lula. If you've ever any editing queries, feel free to get in touch!

2 thoughts on “Can editors provide you with perfection?

  1. “Perfection” I think could be structure, spelling, grammar, and fact-checking. As far as content goes, everyone likes different things, like you said. I think all writers and editors strive for that perfection when it comes to spelling and grammar. Any mistake, even just one, makes the writer look unprofessional and causes readers to judge.

  2. I think grammatical errors are a huge dent on a writer’s work, and so no stone must be left unturned to put them in check, however, perfection flatters us. This is a great article, thanks.

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