Hiring an English Major to Edit Your Book Is Cheating Yourself

In a recent online discussion among freelance editors, one  hiring an english major to edit your booktopic that elicited many comments was about pricing the work we do.

The initial post was by an established and well-respected editor who wrote, “I recently was asked about my rates by someone at a local company who was looking for writing and editing help. She balked at my quote . . . Her response: < … we can find English majors for $10 to $15 [per hour] and many of them are quite good. >”

I get it; no one wants to spend more than necessary for anything—goods or services. I mean, if I can buy a knock-off designer widget that looks just like the brand-name widget, isn’t that a better value than buying the real thing just for the brand name? If I can get my next-door neighbor’s artistic son to design my book cover, isn’t that a better value than hiring an expensive professional cover artist?

And if I can get an English major to edit my book for a few hundred dollars, isn’t that a better value than hiring a professional editor?

No. No. And NO.

Why Hiring an English Major to Edit Your Book Is Cheating Yourself #editing #selfpub #indieauthors Click To Tweet

The knock-off widget is often less expensive because it is inferior quality; regardless of his artistic talent, the next-door neighbor’s son has no clue about the elements that create a compelling and balanced book cover; as a fellow listserve member wrote, “Not to disrespect English majors, but knowing where the commas go does not make one a professional editor.”

Is this the pot calling the kettle black?

I was an English major in college. I’ve always loved words, and one of the greatest lessons I learned while earning my degree was how to analyze the writing of others—which was the first step on my path to become an editor. It certainly was not the last.

I have to agree with this comment made by another listserve member: “I’d say that there were two kinds of English majors at my college, so far as I could see.  Some were serious about reading and writing.  Others just didn’t know what to major in but they kind of liked to read novels. Maybe those are the kind of ‘English majors’ who come cheap because they are still kind of clueless.”

Another commented, “I have an English degree, and while I learned many wonderful skills, professional editing was not among them. The degree gave me a nice skill-set to begin to learn editing and proofreading, but that’s it. Years later, I’m still learning and striving to improve.”

I believe one of the reasons my clients hire me initially (and continue to hire me for subsequent projects) is because I have real world editing experience (which you can learn more about here). Through years of experience and training, I have acquired a skill set far beyond the one I had when I graduated from college. I continue to invest in myself through workshops, webinars, and editing-specific coursework so I can help my author-clients produce the best stories possible.

If editing is editing, why the variation in price?

There are several levels of editing: developmental or content editing (looks at the big picture), copy or line editing (corrects spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors), and proofreading (the last stop before publication to check for typos and consistencies in the final product).

The Editorial Freelancers Association lists a range of pricing for each type of editing, and the variables have to do with the amount of work the manuscript needs, the editor’s experience, and the amount of time the project will take.

ID-100162921Many writers understand the need for some level of editing help, but they don’t understand that proofreading is not a review for adverb abuse or making sure characters are fully fleshed out. If you are unsure of the level of editing help you need, talk to several freelance editors about your wants, needs, and concerns. Many (myself included) offer sample edits to show you how they work and so you can decide if they are a good fit for you and your project.

A manuscript evaluation is another way to get a professional opinion about the overall strengths and weaknesses of your WIP and is a less-expensive option than a full edit, especially if you know you still have more revising to do. (There’s no sense in paying to line edit work you may later delete.)

But please, don’t expect an “English major” to have the level of editing experience found in a professional freelance editor who has spent years learning and practicing the craft of editing. Nowhere is the axiom “You get what you pay for” more true than in editing.

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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.

For more great writing and publishing information, follow  Change It Up Editing and Writing Services on Facebook, where I share interesting articles and links about writing and publishing. And let’s connect on Twitter and LinkedIn too!

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130 thoughts on “Hiring an English Major to Edit Your Book Is Cheating Yourself”

  1. Thank you. Wonderful and true words that needed to be said. I think many of us, myself included, are clueless to what it takes to put out a professionally edited manuscript. Thank you for this insight and honesty.

    The only thing I might add would be if you’re lucky enough to have a beta reader who is an English teacher or has experience like that it can save you money in the long run–less for you pros to have to deal with.

    But that NEVER negates the need for a professional editor and that’s where you come in. Hopefully more self-published authors will learn to take professional steps and elevate the mass of self-pubs.

    1. You made an excellent point that I should have included, Tam: a beta reader with a strong background in grammar can save you a TON of time and money before you hire a copyeditor. I’m all about spending money wisely, and anything you can do before hiring an editor will help you do that. One of the benefits of traditional publishing is that your manuscript goes through several rounds of editing: content editing, line editing, and proofreading. Indie authors who earn the respect of readers find ways to produce the most professional product possible.

  2. I agree. Candace, the time you spent in the publishing world gives you an insider’s knowledge that I have found extremely valuable as I attempt to polish my book and get it published. There is no comparison with what you offer and what an “english major” who has no experience in the publishing world, offers.

  3. Hiring an English Major* to edit your manuscript is like hiring an art school graduate to design your house. Yes, they may be able to draw but they don’t have the necessary training to develop the type of structurally sound blueprints that are required.

    *I love this term. Here in England an English Major is something to do with the military. They also aren’t best trained to edit your manuscript.

  4. Ooh, I found a typo. (I bet you see it when you re-read this.)
    That said, I recognize that proofreading is my ONLY editing skill. Writers like me need editors like you, Candace.

  5. Well said. I’m personally far more of a “big picture” editor than a line editor. I am able to see the big problems with a story, but when it comes to making sure the commas line up, I’m not very helpful.

    This is also reflected in my writing. My stories tend to have good structure (so I’ve been told, at least) but my actual sentence structure, variation, and general style need work. However, I didn’t know that you could actually hire an editor specifically for those weaknesses! Thanks for the info!

    1. We all need different types of editors, and yes, you absolutely can hire an editor for the mechanics. I’ve worked with several writers (both fiction and nonfiction) who have great ideas and are wonderful storytellers, but they need a fresh eye to help them with pacing, sentence structure, and even deciding whether or not to include a passage of dialogue or a subsection in a self-help book. Those writers have renewed enthusiasm once they’ve collaborated with an editor who can help them with their individual stumbling blocks.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Derek, and thanks for stopping by!

  6. I was a Psychology major in college, but that doesn’t mean I always know why people behave the way they do.
    Stick with an expert or you could be wasting your money. Great post, Candace!

  7. Many folks confuse editing with proofreading. When I began editing professionally, I did more of the latter. It takes time and experience before one can learn to shape language for power, clarity, and precision.

    1. Ditto for me, Eric—my first jobs were second-pass proofreads before the manuscripts went to bluelines. Millions of words later, I’m still learning something new every day, and as a lifelong learner, that’s part of why I love what I do.

  8. Teaching mathematics is my specialty within the education profession. My husband finds this laughable, because I have terrible mental math skills. But I’m a visual learner, and I think this lends itself to teaching students in a way that’s clear and easy to follow. Understanding computations and knowing how to teach it are two very different things, as with your example above. Just because a person knows sentence structure doesn’t mean she understands story structure. I agree with you 100%.

    1. A math teacher who has great communications skills is a dream come true! I was lucky enough to find one when I went back to college to complete my degree (fear of math and science kept me from doing so the first time around), and once I found her, I took every required math class with her because I finally GOT math the way she explained it. Your students are lucky to have you, Gwen!

  9. Great post, Candace! Years ago, when I was a grad student, I picked up extra $$ by editing dissertations, usually for students whose first language was not English. I had an interesting experience with a geography student who desperately wanted me to edit her thesis. She had been referred to me by other students I had worked for. I said no. I really just didn’t have time, so I referred her to the English Department where I knew they had a list of freelance editors (all students, of course). Months later, the geography student contacted me again. She had completed her thesis, defended it and received her degree. But she still wanted me to edit her thesis! She had gone to the English Department and found an editor, but all the person did (she complained) was line edit. She wanted a content edit, which is what I was known for. For me, editing for foreign-language students was an opportunity to also teach writing. So while I checked for punctuation, grammar, etc, I also offered suggestions on reorganization and construction. I did finally edit this student’s paper and will always remember how impressed I was by her. Not only did she honor me by persisting with her desire to have me be her editor, but she honored her own work by wanting it to be the best, even after she was done with her degree.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Marie. Although I’ve worked with non-native English speakers, I can’t imagine trying to deal with language issues and a complex dissertation at the same time. Your student was lucky to have you; obviously she knew a winner when she found one!

  10. I was an English major, now an English teacher, and am hoping to some day branch out into editing (though I would like to write more consistently first). Both journeys are respectable (majoring in English and being an editor) but I understand that just because I’ve edited student papers doesn’t mean I am in any way an editor. I have much to learn before I can even break into that fine art.

    1. I was an English major, too, as I mentioned, and it was a great start to my editing career. I know you’re getting some excellent training for proofreading and copyediting with all those papers you have to grade! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Hi Candace, thanks for the link mention! Your article is great, and so true! I’ll be spreading word for authors! It was definitely interesting being part of that efa discussion and it’s quite amazing how often this issue STILL happens. But, as we’ve decided to pursue a career in helping authors – it only makes sense that we do help – by providing them information like your article, and teaching those who want to be taught…right? Great to see this discussion spurred your blog post!

  12. Thank you for this, I have a friend who does freelance copy editing going through my book. Love your feedback and really appreciate it. Thank you!

    1. Your example points out that it is also important to have more than just yourself and one editor or proofreader review the manuscript. Ideally, several beta readers and editors will touch a piece before publication, but we are all human and mistakes can slip through. I made a doozy myself the other day because my proofreader wasn’t available; lucky for me, a professional proofreader caught my mistake when she read the post and sent me a lovely email to let me know! You’re right: you cannot edit yourself. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    1. Sorry to hear you had a not-so-great editing experience, Beverlyn. Next time you need any editing or proofreading help, check out the Editorial Freelancers Association; you’ll find qualified editors with all types of experience listed there. Thanks so much for reblogging this, too!

      1. Thanks, Candace. I have since hired a couple of excellent ones. I like to have more than one to choose from to work with deadlines and such. I might even inquire of you at some point. Although, I’m sure this Freshly Pressed blog entry will give you a whole slew of new clientele! 🙂

  13. I’m not an English major, but have done a fair bit of proofreading for clients. I’ve found that although they only want to pay for proofreading, what they need is significantly more. I often end up offering some “free” commentary on the overall story, mostly because I just can’t help myself! I have issues with weak story lines.

    1. Many writers don’t understand the difference between proofreading and other types of editing. I am always happy when a client tells me he or she has used beta readers, critique partners, family members, or anyone else to help with improving a manuscript before hiring me—that means I can give the writer deeper and more nuanced help than I can when I’m working with a first draft. I hate to see writers spend their money on proofreading when they still need help with structure or content. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

    1. Aww, thanks Laura! And everyone reading these comments should know that Laura is the proofreader I mentioned in another comment who saved me. Everyone should be lucky enough to have such supportive friends!

    1. You actually bring up a good point: writers should vet anyone they hire. Don’t be afraid to ask about the qualifications of the person who will actually do the editing, especially if you’re hiring an editing service. Thanks for stopping by.

  14. Great post. I was an English Major in college and if someone asked me to edit his or her book, I think I would break into a cold sweat! Glad I found your blog. Looking forward to more posts.

  15. Editing is a learned and practised skill like any other; and the different forms – content, proof and line editing – are skills of their own. As you say, publishers (ideally) hire experts in each of these fields for the specific tasks as material goes through the publishing process – and that, ideally, is what self-pubbers should do too.

    I say ‘ideally’ because, as the bottom-line squeeze goes on the main houses, I find this IS one area where they are cutting back.

    But in general, I guess the fact that self-pubbers don’t divide the editorial task down or know what to ask for is the usual case of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.

    This same thing permeates all aspects of writing – I’ve fielded manuscripts from writers wanting me to read and comment. ‘It’s quite good,’ one would-be author told me on delivery. No it wasn’t. But they didn’t know enough to know where they had fallen over.

    To me it comes from the fact that the basics of writing are a common skill taught at school. The problem, alas, is that many view this as the whole of the skill – that ‘writing’ is mere appurtenance to the subject, which is their real field of expertise – that they can just sit down and write a book. The true challenge of writing – and, for that matter, editing – is very different.

    1. You’ve covered a lot of territory in your comments, Matthew, and thank you for all these thoughts. I agree that as the traditional publishing world adapts to the changes and challenges it faces, one of the unfortunate victims seems to be the editing process, especially at smaller publishers. Whether self-publishing or submitting work for publication, it is imperative for every writer to challenge him/herself to create the best product possible; when money is an issue (and let’s face it, most of us don’t have Swiss bank accounts), writers can avail themselves of many money-saving options like beta readers, critique partners, and yes, English-major friends before they invest in professional editing.

  16. This posting is great. I never looked at it this way. My friend Joan always tells me where my weaknesses are in my storyline as she is an avid reader. Where my friend Ivy is a writer so knows what to look for as far as the grammar side, which is my weakness.

    1. Paula, you are lucky to have two friends who critique your work for content and grammar, and I hope every writer does the same thing before hiring a professional editor; one step doesn’t preclude the other if you want to produce the best story possible. I appreciate your comment!

  17. This post did not go the way I thought it would, haha. I thought this was going to be on how much editing your own work helps you grow as a writer. For me, going through and rewriting stuff taught me more than a degree could.

    The thought of majoring in English makes me sad… 🙁

    1. I agree: there is nothing like working in the trenches to teach you what you need to know. An English degree didn’t teach me how to edit, but it certainly gave me a strong literature and writing base on which to build my writing and editing skills.

      I’ve posted a few others that might be more of what you’re looking for: check out these posts about learning from working with beta readers: http://wp.me/p2IvJd-Ej and editing the work of others: http://wp.me/p2IvJd-sj. I’ve also posted articles about avoiding undefined pronouns: http://wp.me/p2IvJd-zk, using the singular “they” http://wp.me/p2IvJd-Ey, and wandering body parts http://wp.me/p2IvJd-DA. If you’re looking for other specific topics, try searching my blog, or better yet, send me an email at cyjohnson5580@gmail.com and let me know what you’d like me to write about next. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      1. Wow, seriously thank you for showing me those posts! I’m totally a weirdo! I despised grammar when I was in high school, but I recently learned to love playing with my pronouns and prepositions! Everything you said about “it” was so true! And, on the flipside (I know you alluded to this), when you’re writing in third person, the “hes” and the “shes” become, like, a stream into your main character’s thoughts! The other characters end up becoming “the “.

        And then prepositions (to me) are the essence of style (besides your commas). Usually there are about two logical choices. Like, I’m flying through the air vs. I’m flying in the air… Uh, trigonometry has me too brain-fried to come up with anything more original than that… xD

        Sorry for the rambling, your posts got me all excited! I know this is probably full of little mistakes! I’m sorry about those! I’m boring my girlfriend writing this! I’d better go. You have an awesome day!

  18. I’m happy when writers seek out any editor. Sad to hear you’re not being fully appreciated for all that you have to offer.
    I’m reminded of a little poem by Piet Hein in one his collections of Grooks. It’s reflective on the challenge of gaining respect from those who don’t have the skills or talent themselves. It includes the phrase: “writers who can’t write are read by readers who can’t read.”
    I’ve heard many artists and musicians express a similar lament. Maybe it’s simply part of the human condition?

  19. Good advice. If I was interested in hiring a professional editor to review my work, I would be much more concerned with “real world” experience than with one’s college major. In fact, I would prefer an editor with a non-related degree and with experience to one with a degree in English and no experience.

    1. I have to agree with you, Brian; if I’d written a novel that included a scene about open-heart surgery, I’d be looking for an editor who has some medical knowledge. An English degree doesn’t guarantee any editing talent whatsoever, and that was my point in this post.

  20. As an English major, copyeditor and copywriter, I wish I could press the “Like” button about a billion times! Good editing takes experience and skill, and senior-level editors should receive senior-level pay. They’ve earned it.

    Self-published books really need the help. I can’t tell you the number of self-published books I’ve seen that were supposedly “edited” but still have tons of typos, grammatical errors and other problems. *winces*

    One editor I know handles this problem in a very tactful way. If someone isn’t willing to pay a fair rate, her response is something along the lines of “I don’t think I’m really suited for your project. But here’s some other people who could help you…”

    1. Yes, I think most editors who work with self-publishing authors have received every comment from “You want HOW much? My mother will correct the mistakes for FREE” to “I’m so glad I found you and I can’t believe how much better my book is now” . . . everything in between. I hope that as more authors realize how vital it is to put their best work out there, they will realize the value of professional editing. Today’s publishing opportunities are so varied and exciting that it makes no sense to shoot yourself in the foot by publishing something substandard—especially when there are so many great freelance editors available to help every step of the way.

      1. I agree. Since a lot of writing is now seen globally (tweets, blogs, Facebook posts, self-published books offered for sale via Amazon, etc.), it’s more important than ever to have a quality editor check your work.

  21. The irony here is that some of those “English majors” can’t write, edit, or proofread themselves out of a paper bag, let alone do it for someone else! I have known many journalism, communications, and/or English majors who can’t construct a simple sentence. Those who hire the inexperienced to do the work of a professional do not comprehend the value of a true wordsmith. Conversely, those who recognize the craftsmanship that a professional brings to the table won’t raise an eyebrow when you quote your rate.

  22. I never understood the difference between proofreading versus line editing versus developmental editing, but I can understand why the difference is important. It’s like someone asking me, “Well, you’re in nursing school, so you can do brain surgery, right? They’re both medicine”. Ignorance about someone’s line of work is the most annoying career-related banter I’ve had to endure.

  23. Hi Candace, as a English major (I’m actually in grad school continuing this love/hate affair of mine) I was actually offended by the title of this post and then I decided to read it and I’m with you on this. You are so right about the 2 types of English majors. I’ve also experienced a third type who just did the degree as an unenthusiastic second or third choice. Question though – I aspire to be a better editor – could you direct me to some resources (preferably free and online) that would help me to sharpen my skills?

  24. Wow! I am glad I read this piece, and thank you for writing it. I am not an English major, but I can do basic proofreading. However, even I know it is important to find an editor for your work – and not an English major.

    I recently had a friend, who is also an English major, offer to take a look at a blog post I was writing. He was only supposed to proofread it, but went Grammar Nazi on me, correcting things he said were wrong, but when we both looked them up later, turned out to be right – from an editor’s viewpoint. He humbly apologized for attacking my work.

    I agree with the fact that there are a lot of self-published works that should have had one-two (and sometimes more) edits before hitting the press. Already, I have met several “published” authors, and their work is… for lack of a better/nicer word… crap. I can only hope three-four edits later that my own work won’t one day be looked at the same way when I go to self publish. Then again, I have my work go through an editor at least twice before I even THINK of publishing.

    1. Sounds like you are a valuable beta reader, though. Writers can benefit from feedback from savvy readers and other writers as they go through their revision process; I wrote about that in “Readers for Writers: Beta Readers, the Superheroes of Your Writing Team” http://wp.me/p2IvJd-Ej. Thanks so much for the reblog!

  25. Thank you for this post. I think that it a commonly misplaced assumption that all graduates with degrees in English are ample editors and enjoy all that “writing” stuff. Nicely put and great insight!

  26. With a business background, pricing has always been a major consideration. It is vital to ensure first a break-even and onwards to a profit. How much to charge for your work is partly what the market will bare and a lot to do with how you and your supply of that product, are perceived in the marketplace. One of the best pieces of advice I was given in early business days was; ‘If the client expects your work to be expensive then don’t disappoint them’ and equally if a client perceives your product to be cheaper before they deal with you, don’t disappoint them. Ask about and find out what others expect to pay for your individual product and let competitors do just that – compete. Good luck. B

  27. I’m currently writing a novel, I have an academic background in English, and I was the senior English teacher of a secondary school for many years. The only thing I know about editing is that the more people you have edit your work (whose writing you are familiar with and respect) the better. But the final editor of my work is always me. I need to do the last run through because I am always the toughest editor of my own work.

    1. I agree with you: as the author, you should be the last and toughest editor of your own work. In my mind, the perfect editor is one who is a member of your team, someone who helps you make your own work better, not someone who tells you to “do this or else” and changes your voice. With your background, you should have little problem with grammar and punctuation, both of which trip up so many writers—lucky you! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Sara.

  28. I fall under the categroy of “English Major who flunked out of the Education Department.” I was supposed to be an Education Major, but could not handle the classroom issues (and I greatly admire people who can). I now teach English in Thailand, where students bow to their teachers and they don’t care what your degree is so long as you’re a native English speaker.

    I also write novels on the side and edit them myself (you can read one of them on my blog). I am not a professional editor, but I’m too broke to hire one, and I figured blogging my novel would get it read by at least a handful of people. No, I do not expect to make money from it. In another life, maybe I should have gone into professional editing, but that would have taken precious time away from what I really enjoy doing (writing novels and travelling).

    1. My original plan for a career after college was to teach, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do with my English major. In my senior year I interned at a publishing house, and the lightbulb went off—I knew what I really wanted to do. How wonderful that you were able to find a way to teach and survive it! 😉

      Have you considered using beta readers to help with your developmental needs? If you can find a few good ones, your work will benefit both from their perspectives and insights, and you’ll also learn a lot about your own writing by critiquing their work. I’ve written several posts about those ideas if you’re interested: How to (Almost) Instantly Improve Your Writing http://wp.me/p2IvJd-sj and Readers for Writers: Beta Readers, the Superheroes of Your Writing Team http://wp.me/p2IvJd-Ej. You might find you actually have more time to write!

      Thanks for commenting, and enjoy both your writing and traveling—those are two of my favorites, too!

  29. Reblogged this on Felixlix's blog and commented:
    I am a Chinese who is going to take English as my major for my degree in Melbourne soon, and was attracted by the word ‘English major’ in the topic. I found this piece of work so wonderful. Sorry for an off-topic question, as a English-as-second-language learner what can I do to enhance my progress of learning while doing the degree? I always have a feeling that I am not as native as the local.

    1. Best of luck to you as you work toward your degree! Two of the best ways I know to improve your English-language skills are to read extensively in English and to have your writing critiqued by someone who has strong English-language skills. The more you do both, the stronger your command of the language will be. And don’t feel bad that you don’t speak or write like a native; there are more than a few natives who struggle, too!

  30. Why? Because you learn about writing through editing? I do agree with that after 17 edits…. On the Eng Major aspect, having farmed my novel out to several people chosen for their varied backgrounds, I’ve found the Lit types don’t see beyond the grammatical/technical issues, whereas the others fly with the story…..

    1. Great point: some beta readers are better with content and development, while others are better with grammar and technical issues. The same is true for editors, most of whom specialize in some but not all aspects of both editing and genres.

  31. You sound pretty good, I wish I was half as good as you in French and Swahili, my tow other languages. The best way to improve even more is to write stuff and get a friend who is native to edit it….

  32. I gladly paid my editor 600$ (payment plan not done yet). It is as important as a fabulous cover. Just yesterday I found the work snuck as in snuck out spelled sluck in my published book.

    1. Oops! Another reason why the final galley needs a review from at least the author and a professional proofreader——and it doesn’t hurt to have a few extra people looking at it for that very reason. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  33. True, so true. Thirty years in editing and publishing, fifteen as managing editor of my medical journal, and I was “involuntarily retired” by a boss who thought two pretty young secretaries and Microsoft Word could do my job.

  34. I am convinced by everything you wrote, but there is one other circumstance to consider: Self-publishing in Kindle format.

    Some months ago I was very excited to have a brand new Kindle and instant access to anything I wished to read. Awesome! Only then to discover that many authors do so without using ANY editorial services.

    I carefully worded reviews for the first dozen books, hoping the feedback would help. There were often, at the core, very good story ideas, completely let down by hundreds of pages of inconsistent logic and tense, repetition, unnecessary apostrophes – and a distinct shortage of punctuation.

    In all those cases, engaging an English Major would surely be so much better than no editor at all. Perhaps new writers and genuinely interested students of English should get together to develop their skills in a low-cost, low-risk, mutually-beneficial way.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Kerri. I didn’t differentiate between ebooks and print books, or between self-published work and traditionally published work, because I believe the same principles apply. I’m a firm believer in writers using beta readers for critiquing their work for everything from content to structure to grammar and punctuation before hiring a professional editor. I don’t suggest professional editing in place of those other points of view, because an author should strive to get as much value as possible out of his or her editing dollars. So yes, any educated person (English major or not) might be able to offer help to avoid “hundreds of pages of inconsistent logic and tense, repetition, unnecessary apostrophes – and a distinct shortage of punctuation.” That help should always be followed by no less than a professional proofreading, and if those logic, repetition, grammar, syntax, and punctuation issues are still a problem, a line edit and perhaps even a content edit might still be necessary. Just because we can publish anything in any condition doesn’t mean we should.

  35. As a current English Major who is seriously considering a career in editing I find it absolutely ridiculous that anyone who only has an English Degree to their name would think that they could edit something the same way a professional editor would. I’ve been asked to edit people’s work in the past and refuse to do it because I believe I don’t have the required skills to do so.

    1. I’m glad you stopped by to comment, Jessica. Unfortunately, there are still many writers who don’t understand the value of a good editor, nor do they understand that although some English majors have the innate abilities necessary to become terrific editors, none of us are born with the skills needed to be professional editors the day we are handed our diplomas——those come with mentoring, education, and experience. As for considering a career in editing, it is a uniquely challenging one with many options; I encourage you to go for it!

  36. Thanks Candace I really appreciated your perspective. Living in a tourism community with multiple publications and papers there are a lot of writers and copy editors . I will share your post with them. As a relatively new blogger I have come to appreciate their experience and yours as well.

  37. I am an English major and I pride myself on a final term paper I wrote about Bergson’s theory of time and T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I love good highly imaginative writing. And because of Mrs. Ruby Plummer from Texas I could parse a sentence that traveled from one end of the blackboard to another. This does not qualify me to be an editor. I have neither the skills, nor the patience, nor the attention to detail. I will add this: English majors should not be working for 10- 15 dollars and hour. Communication skills are more valuable than that: we need to hire some high powered PR people.

  38. Reblogged this on Tina Ann Forkner and commented:
    I love this post from WFWA member over at Change It Up Editing on professional editing. Nothing personal to English Majors because I’m one too, but when it comes down to publishing you want the best editor possible. And this is the first time I’ve ever hit the reblog button, so I’m not sure how this works. Be sure to head over to Candace’s blog. -Tina

  39. Wow, a ton of Likes and Comments, congratulations! My mother was the editor of a local newspaper as I grew up and as I child I never wrapped my head around it, but now she tells me she had a bunch of writers turning in articles that weren’t even close to ready for copy editing. Yikes. Thanks for your input, I will be considering it as I prepare my first book. Thanks again !!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Zachary, and for sharing that story about your mother. She must have had nerves of steel! I hope you’ll feel free to check back on this blog for helpful articles about writing and publishing your book, and let me know if you have any specific questions——you might just spark a new blog post!

      1. Will do! I have followed you here and on Twitter, so I’ll keep an eye out for upcoming posts. I started writing seriously just over a month ago, but something has clicked and I now know that I was preparing my whole life for this moment. So while the budget for my first book may not allow me to contact you for editing, by the 2nd or 3rd we may be good to go 😉 I love your writing voice, very clear and informative, so I’ll be around. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Take care!!

        1. I was right——you did spark an idea for a blog post! Budget is a huge factor for every indie author, and although I’ve written about saving money on editing in several past posts, you just gave me an idea for a new one. Thanks, and I look forward to reading more of your blog, too!

  40. Candace,

    Nice article. Thought you should check your link “Learn more here” under Candace Johnson. All I can get is “Not Approved to Edit” when I click it.

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