Proofreading and Copyediting: Why Not Use Spellcheck?

Perhaps you’ve reviewed an editor’s service offerings and noticed proofreading and copyediting on the list.

But, I already have Spellcheck! You may think. In fact, I already have Scrivener! Why the heck should I pay someone for this?

To put it plainly, hiring a professional editor can mean the difference between a rough draft and a polished manuscript.

Artificial Intelligence is doing some pretty impressive things right now (here’s looking at you, Google Nest, Siri, VR headsets, .... *ahem* Westworld), but there are very few programs that currently meet the expectations we have for a human editor.

Though many writers have sophisticated word processors, they may still make egregious spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, while overseen by the software. Moreover, these programs can’t yet catch continuity or fact-check errors on their own.

"Dolores, come back online. Run Spellcheck mode." (Photo:  Business Insider,  2016.)

"Dolores, come back online. Run Spellcheck mode." (Photo: Business Insider, 2016.)

So, what are Proofreading & Copyediting?

Proofreading & Copyediting are some of the final tweaks made before a manuscript is ready for publication.

Proofreading is the identification and correction of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, usually according to the rules of a particular style guide. I personally subscribe to the Chicago Manual of Style, which is a common guide for American trade publishing, and am also proficient in AP, MLA, and Strunk & White formats.

When you work with a professional proofreader, you don’t have to click “Add to Dictionary” when your fantasy hero has a strange name. You won’t experience that moment of terror, in which you realize you’ve typed in the wrong homophone only after sending your manuscript to an agent, because Spellcheck thought “I sea” totally made sense.

Copyediting, also called line editing, comprises of the nuances on the sentence and paragraph level that a computer program may not identify. For instance, if a sentence is grammatically perfect, Grammarly won’t hint at the fact your prose is too flowery or that it could do without adverbs. It won’t tell you that a section of dialogue could use some tags in order to remind your reader who is talking when.

Even the Hemingway App, delightful in its ability to identify hard-to-read sentences, cannot tell if you’re using those stilted complex sentences to accomplish some narrative purpose. It also can’t explain why short sentences would or wouldn’t benefit a passage. It can only identify these things on a superficial, objective level, based on quantitative data the programmers baked into its code.

Conversely, a well-trained copyeditor can advise you on matters of diction and syntax. She will synthesize what she knows about your characters and your plot to make clean, concise, and logical changes to specific words on the page. She will not overpower your narrative voice; instead, her changes will become the spice that enhances the flavor of your work.

In our lifetime, we are likely to see computers become more intelligent, resulting in technology taking over more jobs in more industry sectors. (They are already in factories, fields, and fast food drive-thrus.)

I hope that we writers and editors will find a way to work alongside such elegant machinery, instead of being thoroughly replaced by it.

Many people do this now. In fact, several of my clients work with programs like Scrivener and Hemingway App early on, but still rely on my eyes, the eyes of an editor, to make any final proofreading and copyediting changes before exporting the document.

Working with Hatch Editorial Services

If you or your beta readers are the Grammar Police who won their sixth grade spelling bees, you can probably self-publish on Amazon or approach a literary agent without hiring a copyeditor. Otherwise, it behooves you to find and hire a professional editor to polish your manuscript to a high shine.  

Bottom line: I am not a piece of code. I am a darn good editor who would love to work for you. Contact me here to get started.