In the process of getting books created for our clients, the topic of manuscript editing comes up frequently. We often get asked the question, is the software that is available for editing manuscripts any good? Our answer is this, on the whole most is pretty good but like anything thing, some are good, some are not so good. Then we get asked the question is the editing book software as good as a person editing? Again, our response is, well, it depends on who the “person” is that is editing. We have seen some pretty horrific editing jobs come through from people who supposed to be “editors”, so it can work both ways.
Let’s take a moment to look at software based editing tools. First of all, there are not all that many to choose from, so that helps to make our decisions and evaluations less complicated. In many instances the issue is not how well editing book software works, the issue is about the author, such as, are they a competent a writer? Let me explain. We frequently are contacted by individuals who have tremendous content for books, these are very bright, talented people but their writing skills are not such that this information can be easily put into book form. Some of these people are those who use English as a second language or who, when they grew up were not exposed to some of the rigours of using the English language. They have a great story to tell but their writing skills and ideas need more work to get it into an understandable state.
For these people, software based book editing software is a real advantage because they can use it frequently, even daily, to help them get a better understanding of the usage and application of the English language. In many instances it can even be considered an advanced learning tool. So, yes for these instances software editing is the only answer.
But, what about the rest of us, those of us who at least “think” we have a pretty decent writing skill. Well even for us there are benefits to using software editing tools. One of the problems that I see ( and probably even possess a few myself) is using some old bad habits, in fact, using these old bad habits so long we can't even see them anymore. It is sometimes hard to imagine that a software product can actually correct some of our writing errors, but it can. One of the reasons for this is that most of us spend so much time communicating orally that when it comes to writing our skills are not quite as honed, hence the need for assistance.
One of the greatest challenges in writing a book is to make the book easy to read for the reader. I know this sounds like a foreign concept to many, but if you have found some books hard to read, it is probably because the author was somewhat obtuse in their writing style. This is where the editor of the book (if there was one) was probably as unskilled as the author in creating an easily readable book.
In the end, I have not seen a editing book software package that can outperform an excellent human editor, so we never have to worry that the software will do a better job. The advantages of software based editors are that they can make the work of a human editor much easier, and they can be used daily on all sorts of different correspondence pieces. In an ideal world a manuscript would be editing by a software based editor, and for its final editing, a skilled human editor. Like all things in life there are advantages to both, you just need to know who to work them to your advantage.
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