Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Difference Between Editing for Non-Fiction and Editing for Fiction

I've explained the difference between content and copy editing. Copy editing is my primary specialty, although upon request I do some content editing, as well. But surely, in regard to copy editing, text is text, right? Who cares about the content in copy editing? What difference does it make?

It actually makes a heck of a lot of difference. Why? First of all, when you pay for an editor, while you are certainly paying for skills, you are also, as with any other service, paying for the editor's time. Non-fiction generally takes significantly longer to read, and if it's academic non-fiction, it's a truly laborious process. While every author has an individual style, there are common tendencies in each category. For example, non-fiction tends toward much lengthier sentence structure. When authors compose non-fiction, they are less apt to write the way that they might speak in everyday life; non-fiction is often instead written in a manner that seeks to further convince readers of an author's expertise on a particular subject. That manner of writing also happens to be more difficult to read, which is why most of us don't read textbooks or dissertations for pleasure. We seek out those documents when we want to learn something, and we don't necessarily expect to be entertained.

Detailed copy editing is arguably even more necessary for quality non-fiction than fiction, with the above in mind. If you're writing non-fiction, you want your readers to think you're an authority on the topic. If you've got grammar and spelling errors, it's likely to make you appear amateurish and uneducated - two things you don't want. So, even though it's more expensive to edit non-fiction, and even though it takes me significantly more time, it's worth the extra expense.

To complicate the issue even further, I'll explain memoirs in a separate blog post; they are deserving of their own special category!

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