The Importance of Hiring a Good Editor When You Are Writing in a Second Language

Much has changed about the world in the last 50 years and particularly since the advent of the Internet. We are now truly international. Large corporations have been doing business in other countries for centuries, but ordinary individuals have only started regular international interactions in the last 20 or 25 years. We not only do business with people in other countries; we also form social relationships with them, and we migrate—frequently. I am currently living in a town in South Florida that is 40% Hispanic; almost all of that population has English as a second language. Many are writers. They write for work, and they write for fun, and they need to have good English skills for both.

If you are a first-time novelist, or are writing a nonfiction book in your second language, you have a very good chance of making mistakes that a native-born English speaker would not make. Examples of common mistakes among those with English as a second language are difficulty with prepositions and leaning heavily on the present tense instead of the past tense or the past perfect. It’s also likely that you may have word finding problems. If your primary language is Italian, you may know exactly what you want to say in Italian, but finding the precise words or terms in English is more challenging. Enter the editor.

A good editor should never leave a footprint. You shouldn’t even know that he or she has been there. Editors should not change your voice or the meaning of what you’re trying to say. A great editor confers with you either on the phone or by making comments in the margins of your documents and asking for clarification. “Is this what you are trying to say? Are you sure you want to use this word? This particular sentence may imply something that you don’t want to say, etc.” Through an ongoing dialogue with your editor, the two of you can establish clarity in your writing because good writing is always clear and understandable. Editors can help you not to repeat yourself. Redundancies are very boring for readers. I almost said, redundancies are very boring for readers to read, but that would have been redundant! You get my point—editors help you to clean up your work so that it is professional and sounds every bit as good as somebody who has English as a first language.

Last, but not least, shop around for different editors. It’s important that you feel comfortable with your editor. You should like him or her, and you should feel that they understand you, and they take your precious work and make it better. Many editing services, such as offer free sample edits of small amounts of text up to 500 words. Take advantage of that. You want to be in sync with your editor and trust the company. Find out what other people have to say about your editor. Have others had positive experiences? Talk to other people with English …