4 types of Editors : The Online Editorial Diary

By: Sona Nambiar,  

The Editor in Dubai

There are four kinds of editors who will give you real value by ensuring quality above speed when it comes to your writing. But in the real world, all editors are lumped into one category – Proofreaders. Over the years, due to budget constraints, even media houses have started to give speed the first priority when publishing online. Result? Quality has been flung out of the window.

Yet each type of editor has their role cut out in a serious publishing organization or editorial solutions firm that aims to maintain the highest quality possible for the reader – be it online or in print. Meanwhile, your beloved friends may be telling you that you are the next best writer after Shakespeare. But deep in your heart, you know better.

Demystifying the editor

I have read manuscripts of writers who were so scared of criticism from an editor that they were three years into hanging on to the book but stuck with circulating it among friends. Feel free to connect with me. In case you want to send

1)Your article for a free assessment

2)Your book for evaluation

3)Your research report for an independent read.. But after reading this article

So here am I demystifying the different roles and giving you advice on how to find an editor nearest to you. But the right type of editor for your book, blog or research paper depending on the stage that you are in.

Or even your video script. Yes, you need a good editor to edit that oh-so-spontaneous video script that you wrote. If you really want to make the max impact in the first 10 secs itself. Sometimes, other than your mother, no one will listen to you beyond 10 minutes. And she might chose the viral cat video. So, plump for the editor, do…. Getting back to the list and in order of experience…

1)The Editor (sometimes, also known as the Editor-at-Large)

This kind of editor is actually your content auditor. And, usually, 15 years plus in the role. She or he will read your manuscript or article from end-to-end, will evaluate if the piece is interesting or yawn-kinds, spot cliched writing from a mile off and will be your biggest critic. They will also take a pencil or a red pen and slash off entire sections of your writing due to their years of experience. This comes out of kindness to your readers but with much heartache to you, the writer. But do bear with them.

You may actually get genuine readers in the long run because of their first feedback. This means that the piece may come back to you with queries for more information – even before they get into the detailed editing. Yet, the Editor will, in the long run, help you get laser focus into your work before future submissions and their feedback will organically increase your readership.. Plus, you will evolve as a good writer. If it is a book, they will spend time trying to understand if the book will actually be read by the reader you have in mind. So the Editor is also the Strategist – it comes only with experience..

Yes, they charge heavily – by the hour or by project. But you will reap the maximum returns on your efforts by signing up with such an editor in the long run. Your piece then goes into the next stage and the next type of editor..

2)The Structural or Developmental Editor 

This editor will deconstruct your article after analyzing the real structure needed for the piece and deciding how it needs to flow. They will shift paras, rewrite the piece or chapters of the book and keep the running thread intact. In other words, they ensure that the reader will continue to read the piece till the very end.

With constrained budgets, the Editor may also play the role of the structural editor after the first feedback. The “times they are ‘a changing.”

3)The Line Editor or Sub-Editor

This kind of editor is the backbone of the copy desk. They will go through the writing – line by line, check for repetition of words, clarify meanings, check grammar and above all, consistency in facts and figures. They are the workhorses of the organization. The silent warriors but responsible for maintaining the quality of the publication.

I started my career as a sub-editor and did over two years on the desk. So I really respect them – they work longer hours, stay late and ensure the highest quality possible. It is a hard and thankless job and black coffee helps to survive. Sub-editors in newspapers read up to eight pages a day and it is no mean feat.

Why? On a regular day, a page goes through another five reads after two sub-editors read it – the chief sub-editor, the night editor, the macro editor and then the Editor-in-Chief. Usually, pages are put up on the “Wall” at night. Then the sub-editors read each other pages to spot any typos. Oh, those halcyon days at Emirates Business 24|7, the business paper I worked with – from 2008 to 2010 till the last day that it closed down to go online as a general publication..

By the way, there is a golden rule in all publishing houses. If you write, you don’t edit.

4)The Proof-reader

The proof-reader will read the final proofs and spot minor typos (errors in copy or any deviations from the style sheet). They will not change your sentences or advice you. As this is the last stage before the piece is published.

So the next time you type queries in the Google search bar like

  1. Why hire an editor?
  2. What does an editor do?
  3. How much does an editor cost in Dubai, UAE?
  4. Should I pay the editor by the hour or project?

I will recommend that it is important to first understand the nature of the work at hand. Trust the editor to give you honest feedback. And then decide if the price they quote is equivalent to the task at hand.

In the end, always remember one thing. The editor will only think about your reader. You are the last person on their mind.