MiddleoftheNight Editorial Services

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Editing: What is it?

Editing is an artful craft that goes by different names for processes that often overlap, all having to do with paying careful attention to the written word so that raw communication becomes polished expression. Here we follow the current 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style in considering manuscript editing, also known as copyediting or line editing, as ranging from mechanical editing to substantive editing. Manuscript editing in turn is distinct from developmental editing, which often entails rewriting and reorganization of a work in order to fully realize its essential ideas.

Mechanical editing is concerned with formal matters like grammar, syntax (sentence structure), word usage, punctuation, spelling, bias-free language, and stylistic consistency, such as following capitalization rules and maintaining document structure. Substantive editing by comparison focuses on formulation of content while paying attention to sense (and plot in fiction), clear explication, argument, coherence, and organization of the manuscript.

Why is editing important?

Even the best writer in early drafts is prone to making unconscious mistakes and embarrassing misnomers, conveying unintended ambiguities, vague generalities, and circumlocutions that impinge on readers' time. Invariably our writing has to go through an editing process to gain the benefits of a sharpened eye and a necessary distance (without sacrificing immediacy) before becoming presentable and understandable to perspectives other than our own. As an ideal reader, an editor can read your text carefully and observantly, helping to make explicit your meaning and to polish your style.

Editing services: What we can do.

As Chicago advises, MiddleoftheNight believes that "a light editorial hand is nearly always more effective than a heavy one." Sensitive to each author's characteristic style, we catch inconsistencies, refine careless phrases, specify generalities, and further readability through manuscript editing, rewriting only when necessary for developmental editing. As Karen Judd notes in Copyediting: A Practical Guide, "a correct style is one that suits the subject." Although having one's words edited might feel acutely personal to some, aesthetic criteria—such as the subject matter to address, the appropriate tone to convey, the meaning intended, a character's unique voice—guide our editing process.

In short, we can enhance your prose so that it strikes its intended audience as precise yet vivid, convincing, expressive, perhaps even arresting. Check out Before & After Copyedits and Before & After Substantive Edits to see the difference—sometimes as subtle as a more polished prose, sometimes as dramatic as adding comprehensibility—that editing makes.

Practically, we customarily use the track changes feature of Microsoft Word to electronically make redlined edits on copy, which changes an author is free to accept or reject, individually or as a whole. We are also able to electronically edit PDFs directly—or, if preferred, to edit on paper using conventional copyediting marks. Via editing software we leave authors nonprinting comments and queries, such as inquiring about discrepancies, seeking clarification, and pointing out repetition, as well as use email when necessary to communicate with clients.

Copyediting guidelines

  • Editing with a light touch, altering text as minimally as possible and suggesting rather than rewriting
  • Respecting an author's voice, style, idiom and conveying the intended tone and meaning
  • Striving for concision, clarity, expressiveness, rhythm; varying repetitive phrasing
  • Maintaining consistency of style and formatting of typographic elements, keeping a style sheet, conforming to a style manual's documentation and to house style
  • Eliminating biased or careless language, awakening dead metaphors, avoiding expletive constructions (There is/are . . .)
  • Smoothing transitions, straightening illogic, furnishing relevant detail
  • Correctly formatting in-text citations and matching with end-of-manuscript references