Is My Editor a Robot?

Ask the Editor Series, Q12

WAD Ask Lynda CartoonQ: I think my editor is a robot. How can I tell if I’ve hired a real person or just some punk with a Grammarly program?

A1:  Boop boop beep boop beep beep . . . 

A2: It’s only complicated if you haven’t done your due diligence.

Writers can be notoriously suspicious people. Three out of every five worry that their beta reader or copyeditor is going to steal their manuscript, and those same three are usually insistent that the other party signs a nondisclosure agreement just to have eyes on the work. 

[Side note: if you’re not famous and/or are not writing about genuine, patented secret technology the world isn’t ready to hear yet, you don’t need an NDA. Period. No professional is going to risk their own career to steal someone’s work, or even talk about specifics with anyone other than the author.]

But let’s get back to the question at hand. If you’ve hired an editor, then it’s up to you to look into that person before proceeding further. It’s a sad fact, but there are unscrupulous people out there who think they can fool innocent writers out of a few bucks by running a manuscript through editing software and calling it done.

There are a few things you can check to make sure you’re getting an editor who’s actually going to do the job well. You may not need to cross them all off your list, but it shouldn’t be too hard to look into the following:

  • Do they have a website? Most editors have a website that either tells you a little bit about them, showcases their business, or at least features a landing page to their services and a contact form. There are those editors who only have an email address, but they’re more often academic editors who work for universities or research facilities.
  • Does their website have typos and bad grammar? If their About page says “I is a edditer” then you should run away. Oh, it may not be that obvious, but if they have more than a couple typos, they’re either ignorant or careless. The professional editors I know have gone through their web copy dozens of times and have hired others to go through each page to ensure the writing is as clean as possible. How can we claim attention to detail on your work if we don’t even double-check our own?
  • If they’ve claimed to work on specific books, are you able to verify that? All it takes in most cases is a “look inside” feature of a book on Amazon, or a quick email to the author of the book, to find out.
  • Do they have a social media presence anywhere? If they can’t be found anywhere online other than a Goodreads thread, claiming they’re an editor who can do the work for cheap, I’d steer clear. Or if they have a social media presence that never, ever mentions an editing business, RED FLAG. If they’re new, they’ll be pushing to advertise themselves, and if they’re established, you’ll find them easily.
  • Does the editor provide a free sample edit (up to about 1000 words for copyedit) or a longer paid sample? Though they can’t show you someone else’s “before and after” manuscript, you can ask for a sample edit on text you provide. If they’re not willing to provide a sample edit (free or paid), then you won’t have any idea if they know what they’re doing or not. Move along. Nothing to see here. There are plenty more people to choose from.

As I wrote this post, I found myself thinking of how tightly some authors hold on to their book babies. If your work is important to you, it’s up to you to make sure you’re hiring someone who fits the above criteria or who has been recommended by more than one writer. 

It’s unfortunate, but there will always be that person on Fiverr (bunches of them there, actually, so beware) whose price is too good to be true, and whose idea of “editing” is running the MS through Grammarly or ProWritingAid and calling it a day. Most professionals don’t have all that much good to say about Grammarly, which is wrong as often as it is helpful. And ProWritingAid is a great tool, as is Hemingway Editor, PerfectIt, and other writing software helps, but they’re no substitute for a real person.

There may be a lot of editors in the world to choose from, but many of us know each other (or at least know of each other) through professional groups or organizations. This not only means we can vouch for the good ones, but it also means we probably know the name of the scammers.

When in doubt, ask around! You’ll spot the real people from the fakes. All it takes is a little bit of research.

Happy writing! 

If you have any questions, don’t forget to

Ask Lynda the Awesomest Editor™

All the answers . . . according to me!

6 thoughts on “Is My Editor a Robot?”

  1. Thanks, Lynda.

    Your title drew me here. I expected a humorous take, but you provide useful tips that will benefit any writer searching for an editor.

    As soon as I finish this comment, I’ll flit back to Twitter and share it with my followers.

    Stay safe!


  2. Funny enough, I mention the good–fast–cheap thing in this week’s blog post where I discuss things to look for when hiring a good and trustworthy editor. Our minds must be in sync.

    I’m not sure we’ve ever made that final portion a live link, which may explain why few people email me their questions, haha. Thanks for the heads up, Alicia!


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