The Global Changes blog

sky, stars, constellations

Choosing the right editor


There may not be quite as many editors out there as there are stars in the galaxy, but it’s close. And choosing the ideal editor for your project is crucial to a successful collaboration. So how can you figure out whether someone is a good fit for you?

The first job is to source some potential candidates, perhaps by consulting the directories of editorial organisations, asking colleagues for recommendations or searching the internet. To help you narrow down to a shortlist, I recommend focusing on the following initial details. My own answers to these questions are in italics. 

Does the editor offer the service you require?

Not all copyeditors offer proofreading, and vice versa. Copyediting and proofreading happen at different stages of the editorial process: copyediting is done before the document is laid out for publication (usually in Word), whereas proofreading is done after the edited document has been laid out (usually in PDF form). Some editors also offer other services, such as developmental or structural editing, which happens before copyediting. 

I offer both copyediting and proofreading services. Developmental editing is not currently one of my services. 

Does the editor or proofreader normally edit fiction or non-fiction?  

Editors are a varied bunch with as many different specialisations as there are different kinds of writing. Although some editors work on both, most of us specialise in either fiction or non-fiction. Within those two categories there are, of course, many subcategories. For instance, some non-fiction editors may focus exclusively on trade books, business magazines, marketing materials, academic theses or technical reports, while others may work on a combination of different fields. 

I edit non-fiction only, focusing on scholarly and technical papers, books and reports. 

Do they have relevant training and/or experience? 

It’s a good idea to look for someone with experience in editing documents like yours. If your potential editor is relatively new, find out whether they have completed any training courses in proofreading or editing. 

In my case, I have been working with scientific and technical writing for an international readership for more than 20 years. I was trained on the job when I started out, and also completed formal training at the PTC. 

Do they already work with clients like you? 

If an editor has worked with similar clients before, they are likely to have a good understanding of your needs from the outset. Of course, this one isn’t essential, but it can save time for both of you if your editor is familiar with your likely process and priorities.

I provide a range of editorial services for international organisations, public bodies and publishers, and occasionally work with individual clients.

Do they have some knowledge of your subject matter? 

Your editor doesn’t have to have a PhD in your subject to be able to help you (despite what some well-known commercial editing services may say!), but some familiarity with the conventions and terminology of your field is definitely an asset. 

You can see a list of my specialisms under Subjects and Specialisms.

Are they familiar with your kind of English?

There are many variants of English in use around the world, all with their own sets of rules. For instance, speech is punctuated differently in British and Australian English compared with American or Canadian English. Vocabulary and syntax may also vary. Ask your editor if they are familiar with the conventions of your kind of English.

Although British English is my first language, I often edit in American English. The Chicago Manual of Style is my indispensable guide in this!

Do they belong to a relevant professional body? 

A number of professional editorial bodies exist, and membership of one can be a good indication of your editor’s commitment to upholding high editorial standards. 

I am a Professional Member of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), which is a non-profit body that promotes excellence in English language editing.

Is the price right?

It’s a good idea to approach more than one editor for a quote. The editor may ask to see your document before giving a price so that they can assess how much work is needed.  The quoting process can be a good way for both editor and client to determine whether they are likely to work well together. 

I charge by the word, by the hour or by the page according to client preference. My prices are broadly based on the CIEP’s recommended rates, which are updated each year. You can find them here.