I Have My Own Style Guide. Do I Still Need An Editor?

Ask the Editor Series, Q2

WAD Ask Lynda CartoonQ: If I have my own style guide, why do I still need an editor?

A1: Because I need to pay my electric bill. Also, I need to feel special, and I can’t feel nearly as special if you know everything that I know. It’s science.

A2: It’s complicated, and here’s why.

Okay, first things first. GO, YOU! You have your own style guide! I am seriously proud of you.

In my opinion, it’s helpful—dare I say essential?—for a writer to have their own style guide. The Chicago Manual of Style is the go-to for most publishing needs, and provides the kind of standardization that makes for smoother reading. Editors all over the globe use it, defend it, love it, and invite it to dinner on occasion. Publishers and other businesses rely on editors to follow CMOS or a style guide that’s customized for their particular company. That’s how important it is.

So if you own one, you may think that’s all you need. After all, you are now in possession of THE information source the pros use. What could go wrong?

Here’s the thing: a style guide is one tool in the toolbox. There are dictionaries, grammar guides, continually updated language usage guides, help forums, and general trends. And although some writers are able to keep up with it all, it’s time-consuming. Often, the choice boils down to teaching yourself all the new and improved ideas or just sitting down to write so you can get the words on the paper before they run away. Again. And a style guide can’t tell you if your manuscript has plot holes.

And let’s say your novel takes years to write and revise. It could be that some of the things you’ve written are now subject to a new set of rules. Heck, look at how many people still insist on two spaces after the end of a sentence because “that’s what I’m used to doing,” even if those double spaces are a red flag that screams NO EDITOR to everyone else.

So let’s hear it for having your own style guide! And a dictionary! And any other resources that will make your writing the best it can be. And then . . . hire an editor. But don’t do it for my electric bill. Do it for YOU.

Because it’s our job to keep up with styles, current trends, and the wonderfully ever-changing language so you writers can do what you do best: create new worlds for us to get lost in.

If you have any questions, don’t forget to

Ask Lynda the Awesomest Editor

All the answers . . . according to me!

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