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Why Use a Proofreader or Copy Editor?

Editor Serena TattiBy Serena Tatti

Note: With the rise in digital self-publishing, everyone, it seems, is looking for a story editor to improve their manuscripts before indie publishing or submitting to an editor. Well, I’ve found a great one and I’d like to introduce you to her. Her name is Serena Tatti and she lives in Victoria, Australia.

Thank you for inviting me to your wonderful blog and allowing me to explain why it can be very helpful to have your work professionally edited.

I can hear some of you asking, “Surely when I sell my book, the editor will fix it for me?”

Time is money and most publishing houses or agents don’t have the time to devote in nurturing new authors, no matter how talented. A flawless manuscript will immediately put the editor or agent in a better frame of mind when reading your submission. There is nothing that pulls a reader out of a story more than continual spelling, grammatical or punctuation errors. The latter can actually change the meaning of a sentence. Here is a classic example:

  • A woman without her man is nothing.
  • A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Adding a colon and a comma can make the same words in the same sequence mean the exact opposite.

With the changing trends in publishing, a lot of authors, both published and not published, are turning to digital self-publishing. What was once frowned upon is now the way of the future because self-publishing can prove quite lucrative for little outlay. Even though these books are usually much cheaper than print books, most readers expect well-written and seamless books.

As an author, you are always close to your own work. You know your characters inside out, know the setting, the conflicts, the scenarios that meld together to bring this story to life. No matter how many times you read your own writing you will invariably overlook some mistakes as your brain often sees what you expect, not what’s really on the page. You’ve lived and breathed your story for weeks, months or even years so can often be blind to confusing sentence structure, spelling errors or inconsistencies in chapters. An impartial proofreader or editor can bring fresh eyes to your work to eliminate distracting mistakes and ensure the writing is clear.

If you choose a proofreading option, it will mainly look at spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax, which is the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences. While MS Word has Spell Checker (F7), and it’s an invaluable tool, it’s not foolproof. It may want to make changes that you know are incorrect. Perhaps sometimes you’re not sure if the suggested changes are incorrect. That’s when the “fresh eyes” can help.

An editor will also look at the correct word for your story e.g. Many people get confused by homonyms, which are words that sounds the same but have different meanings e.g., to, too, two; your, you’re, yore; where, we’re, wear; there, their, they’re.

Its It’s the editor’s job to find the write rite right word.

A full editing option will usually include all proofreading services, and comments and suggestions as necessary on continuity, content, characterization, conflict, pacing, dialogue, emotional tension and plot.

Many editors (myself included) often offer a free sample edit (usually ten pages). This is as much for you to see if you’re happy with their work, as for them to see if your work is compatible with them :-)Don’t forget that many proofreaders and editors often started as writers, so we understand the sensitivities of the author.

Of course, you should edit your own work to see if you’ve managed to convey your story the way you want it. Bear in mind that having a professional edit can really make your writing sparkle, and perhaps get you one step closer to your goal, be it to sell to a publisher, or make money from self-publishing.

Thanks again for having me as your guest and thank you for the opportunity to talk about my new venture.

About Serena Tatti:

Serena Tatti left a promising career in medical research to raise her family. Cliché, but true. Having always been an avid reader of romance novels, she decided to try her hand at writing one of the many stories that lived in her head. Several more followed in quick succession. Soon it was evident that the proofreading and editing skills that had often been utilized in Serena’s medical research days, were being used more and more by friends. After working in the editing field for several years, Serena started her own editing business, Serena Tatti Editing Services. She lives in Victoria, Australia.

At Story Editor, we work on projects of any size including articles, short stories, novellas, novels (any length, most genres) and theses whether scientific or legal (or ask about other subjects).

All work is carried out in a secure and confidential environment.

Check out the website for testimonials and contact me if you’d like a quote.


Margaret Tanner - October 29, 2012 - 1:30 am

Hi Serena,
Very informative blog. I can attest to your skills as an editor. They are sensational.

Best wishes


Jane Beckenham - October 29, 2012 - 1:38 am

Hi Serena, Very true. I’ve brought several – hi profile – ebooks and the editing is apalling. A professional editor can make all the difference to your work.

Jane B

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 2:29 am

Hi Margaret,
Thanks for the praise. I’m lucky to have worked with many talented authors, including yourself.
Thanks for dropping in.

Efthalia - October 29, 2012 - 2:43 am

Hi Serena,

What an insightful post! Thank you for sharing your expertise. It is very true that an author can be a little too close to their own story to see all the flaws.

Sound advice and I definitely agree with you.


Carol Burnside - October 29, 2012 - 4:20 am

Marilyn, thanks for the recommendation.

Serena, I’ll keep your info on file as I may need your services in the very near future. I popped over to your website and saw you’d edited Boomerang Bride by Fiona Lowe. I loved that book from start to finish. :)

Elvina Payet - October 29, 2012 - 5:04 am

Serena, what an informative post. I would highly recommend you to anyone – I know first-hand how skilful you are in making a manuscript the best it can be. And I know the many talented authors who have used your services feel the same.
All the best. Elvina

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 5:08 am

Hi Jane,
I think that even the multi-published authors that have self published are realizing that they need someone else to look at their work before putting it out there.

Thanks for stopping by.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 5:14 am

Hi Efthalia,
Even editors find it difficult to edit their own work. No matter how much you know about the rules and regulations, if it’s your writing, it’s easy to miss things because you know they’re supposed to be there.

Lovely to see you here.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 5:18 am

Hi Carol,
I’m glad you liked that Fiona Lowe’s Boomerang Bride – it won the RITA and also the RuBY (Romantic Book of the Year, which is the highest accolade in the romance writing industry in Australia). Fiona was my crit partner and when I wasn’t writing very much and therefore not sending her anything to critique, she started me on my editing journey. She’s the reason I am where I am.

I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Thanks for coming in to say hi.

Margaret Midwood - October 29, 2012 - 5:51 am

Hi Serena,

Thanks for sharing your editing process.

I’m a story teller not an English expert and my work needs your sharp eye.

And I love the sparkle you add to my work.


Sandra Elzie - October 29, 2012 - 5:56 am

Hi Serena,

I enjoyed the article…and I’m writing a book now (to be sent to a traditional publisher…and if not bought, to be e-pubbed) that I’ve been considering sending to someone before sending it out, so I’m excited to read your blog article today. Like Carol, I’ll be filing this away for a time, hopefully, not too far in the future.

(Golly, I wonder how many mistakes I made in this paragraph…. :)

Thanks so much for joining us.

Josie Caporetto - October 29, 2012 - 6:22 am

Hi Serena, I really enjoyed the article and so very true.
Though I’m not published I had the luck of you looking at my work.


Louise Reynolds - October 29, 2012 - 6:28 am

Hi Serena,
Great advice. I’ve been lucky enough to have your expert eye over some of my work and it has been invaluable.

Marilyn Baron - October 29, 2012 - 6:48 am

We are so lucky to have Serena as a guest today. She is a wonderful and talented person and very in-demand. I got the idea to bring her here because everyone is asking about having their manuscripts edited before self-publishing or sending it to an editor or agent. I’m an editor myself in the corporate world and I know sometimes I’m so close to my manuscript that I will miss things. But it’s more than proofreading. A good content editor can make all the difference. So thank you Serena for coming on and answering all of our questions.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 7:14 am

Hi Elvina,
Thank you for your praise. I’ve been lucky enough to work with many wonderfully talented authors. I love my work :-))

Thanks for coming in.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 7:16 am

Hi Margaret M,
Thanks for those lovely words. Again, I’ve been very lucky to work with so many talented authors.

Thanks for dropping in.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 7:19 am

Hi Sandra,
I’m very pleased to be here. I feel very honored to be asked here by Marilyn.

Thanks for commenting (and you communicated very well, so don’t worry!)

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 7:20 am

Hi Josie,
Thank you for those lovely words. The beauty of a career like mine is that I get to read so many wonderful stories :-))

Thanks for dropping in.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 7:22 am

Thanks Louise. Soon my head won’t fit through the door. LOL.

Lovely to see you here.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 7:24 am

Thanks for having me as your guest blogger, Marilyn. So far it’s been a lot of fun. I am happy to answer any questions, though I’ll be off to bed soon (while I imagine you’ve only just woken up?)

Thanks for this opportunity, Marilyn.

Marilyn Baron - October 29, 2012 - 7:30 am


Yes, while you were answering questions I was asleep! Now I’m up but I hope you’ll answer as many as you can before you go to sleep and when you wake up answer those you may have missed, because I’m sure they’ll be accumulating. Thank you so much for guest blogging with us and we hope to hear from you again before the end of the day.

Cora Blu - October 29, 2012 - 8:25 am

I loved my story before acquiring an editor. After my editor and I worked on it… I sat with tears in my eyes reading my book. I fell in love with my characters and the story all over again. Editors are as important as knowing which POV to tell the scene from for me.
Great post.
Cora Blu

Marilyn Baron - October 29, 2012 - 8:31 am


Thanks so much for visiting the blog and thank you for your beautiful comment. Now I have tears in my eyes. You expressed your thoughts so well. What a testament to your editor.

Debbie Kaufman - October 29, 2012 - 8:32 am

Hi, Serena! So nice to have you here at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. Editors are the unsung heros of all great books. I am quite blessed to have my own in-house proofreader, one whose red pen is legendary among my friends! I actually skipped one or two steps of the editing process with Harlequin because my manuscript was so clean. I do wish new authors, both pubbed and unpubbed, would get a grasp on the importance of using a good editor, or, at the very least, a proofreader. Frankly, nothing outs you as inexperienced more than a seriously flawed read. Who cares if it is free when I can’t get past the first three pages for the errors?

BTW, according to my proofreading husband, my consistent flaw is that I’ve never met a comma that I didn’t like. :)

Sia Huff - October 29, 2012 - 8:56 am

Thanks for sharing your expertise with us today, Serena. I totally agree, “An impartial proofreader can bring fresh eyes to your work…” I certainly could use that.
How busy are you? What’s a normal turn around time?
Glad you found your calling. Continued success.

Connie Gillam - October 29, 2012 - 9:12 am

As the world’s worst speller, I freely admit to needing an editor. Thanks, Serena for being on the blog. I’ll check out your website.

Marilyn Baron - October 29, 2012 - 9:15 am

Debbie and Sia,
Thanks for commenting. I’m sure Serena will respond when she wakes up. I think it may be tomorrow in Australia. I never could get the time difference right. But she was answering comments while we were all asleep.

Pam Asberry - October 29, 2012 - 9:35 am

Thank you so much for blogging with us today, Serena, and for the great advice. I like to think I am a good, clean writer but I miss things all the time. It is embarrassing to get a contest entry back with typos marked. I’m off to visit your website!

Marilyn Baron - October 29, 2012 - 9:48 am


Thanks for visiting the blog. Pam thanks for the comment. It’s just natural not to catch every mistake, because you’ve been looking at the same manuscript for so long. A fresh pair of eyes is always better.

Linda Andrews - October 29, 2012 - 10:09 am

Hi Serena,

I love your work! It’s so true that stories always shine better with the right editor :-)

Marilyn Baron - October 29, 2012 - 10:12 am

Thanks for your comment. Serena will be back later to respond.

Ella Quinn - October 29, 2012 - 11:22 am

Very true. A good content editor can make a world of difference.

Marilyn Baron - October 29, 2012 - 12:18 pm

You’re right. I found that to be the case, too.

Maxine Davis - October 29, 2012 - 12:35 pm

Hello Serena,
I enjoyed your blog very much. About all I can add to what has been written is a loud Amen. I, too, plan to contact you, hopefully, soon.

Carol Burnside - October 29, 2012 - 12:55 pm

Serena, I met Fiona at Nat’l in July, lunched with her at the Medical’s luncheon and witnessed her win the RITA. It was a wonderful moment, even for those of us were rooting for her. I’m not surprised to learn she also won the RUBY. Good on her! She’s a sweetheart.

Elaine Calloway - October 29, 2012 - 1:05 pm

Great post and so true! Some friends of mine recently purchased some books online and the spelling errors are all over the place.

Thanks for reminding us :) Although, I did find it strange to learn recently that even PUBLISHED authors are now having to go to freelance editors because the editors at the pubbing houses didn’t have time for thorough editing. That surprised me, but apparently that is the new trend. Many of those retired from pub houses or agencies are now freelancing editing for both unpubbed and pubbed authors. Have you heard anything to that effect down Under? I’d be interested to know.

Elaine Calloway

EC Spurlock - October 29, 2012 - 1:17 pm

Thanks for being with us today, Serena! I’d be interested to know how you got started in business. I was an editor of DIY books for 9 years and before that I spent 4 years as a line editor for a daily newspaper, and I’m now looking to hang out my shingle as a freelance editor/proofreader. Any advice?

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 8:20 pm

Hi Marilyn,
Here I am and look at all those lovely visitors.

Hi Cora,
That’s a lovely story. I’m so glad your experience with an editor has been a good one. Of course there are lots of good editors out there, and it’s important to get one that knows what you want. It’s very important to find an editor that won’t interfere with your *voice* and who tries to rewrite everything. Sounds like you have a winner there!

Hi Debbie,
I did have a chuckle at your comments :-)) I agree that presenting a polished manuscript will greatly help the aspiring author. I’ve worked with Harlequin authors, authors published by other houses, unpublished and self-published authors. One of my regulars (who is multi-published in paranormal erotic romance) received high praise from her editor for her last manuscript because it was so easy to read. It can’t hurt to present a polished piece – it puts the editor in a better frame of mind :)

Ah, yes, gotta love those commas :silly:

Thanks for coming in, ladies!

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 8:28 pm

Hi Sia,
Truthfully, I am very busy, but I do my best work under pressure. I can still take on new clients, and the turnaround will depend on the size of the manuscript and what is required.

The timeframe for Proofreading (spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax) will vary according to the length of the document. Usually an 20,000 word manuscript/novella would be completed within 1 to 2 weeks but most likely 1 week.

The timeframe for Complete Editing (proofreading services and comments on continuity, content, characterization, conflict, pacing, dialogue, emotional tension and plot) will vary according to the length of the document. Usually a 20,000 word manuscript/novella would be completed within 3 to 4 weeks but most likely only 2 weeks or less.

Naturally a 100,000 word manuscript would take much longer, and it also depends on the amount of work needed.

Thanks for your best wishes :-))

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 8:36 pm

Hi Connie,
Spelling is one of those things that is easy to fix. So are punctuation, grammar and syntax. The author does the hard part— actually writing the book!

Hi Pam,
Typos happen all the time. I’ve accidentally hit send before checking (or even after checking) and made some funny boo-boos. It’s always easier to see the errors in other people’s work.

Thanks for calling in ladies.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 8:39 pm

Hi Linda,
Lovely to see you here. Linda is another of my regulars. Her sci fi books are great! That’s another thing that I love about my job—I *meet* the most talented and gorgeous people and I get to read a variety of genres.

Hi Ella,
So very, very true!

Thanks for stopping in, ladies.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 8:50 pm

Hi Maxine,
I look forward to hearing from you and all the lovely other people who left comments here on Petit Fours and Hot Tamales.

Hi Carol,
I wish I’d been there when Fiona won the RITA! I can’t tell you how proud and excited I was when Elvina (see earlier commenter) let me know! I was lucky to be there when she won the RuBY and it was phenomenal. Fiona was so emotional and gave a gorgeous speech. She is a wonderful, generous person and gives the BEST workshops ever!! She is the *Queen of Conflict*. I always tell authors that if they want a well-crafted book, that has conflict at every turn, larger-than-life characters, with high emotional intensity, and is still a wonderful read, you can’t get any better than a book by Fiona Lowe. Yes, I’m a huge fan!

Thanks for visiting, ladies.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 9:01 pm

Hi Elaine,
You only have to look at newspaper articles (especially some of the stories online) and even books onshelf often have spelling mistakes, or problems with translations (one of my bugbears! While Google Translate is one of the best translation websites, it can still get things wrong, believe me. Josie (see earlier comment) and I often help authors with Italian phrases because nothing throws you out of a story more than seeing incorrect spelling and grammar in any language! BTW we don’t charge for help with a few sentences for a book)

Yes, it’s not only self-published books that have errors. I can only tell you about my own experience, and yes, it’s true. I have several clients who are multi-published authors from several houses. Some of the work they send me can be for a different line to what they are well known for (for example a YA or single title rather than category romance) but some of them just want a polished piece to present to their editor.

I hope that answers your question? Thanks Elaine.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 9:15 pm

Hi EC,
Well, let’s see. I mentioned in the reply to Carol that Fiona was the first one to pay me to *edit* her books. I’d done small projects here and there, then a friend in the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild (I’ve been a member for 15 years), Cheryl Wright, asked if I was interested in editing an autobiography that she didn’t have time to do. I mentioned to one of my longtime friends, Maxine Sullivan, that I’d been editing, and I had critiqued her work before, so she asked to employ me for her books. Then is sort of cascaded and lots of friends (see impressive list of commenters) followed. Then I had a hugs crisis in my life and I was forced to look for a job. With the help of several friends, I was encouraged (nudged?) to start my own business and I launched it at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Melbourne last year. Slowly it’s gathered momentum and I am actually thinking of expanding the business. Most of my clients are in the USA, New Zealand and Australia, but I also have some in Japan and the UK.

Do you have any clients? Word of mouth is such a good way to start. Then there are the writer loops. You don’t actually advertise, but add it in your signature line. Then there’s Facebook and Twitter and the other social networks. LinkedIn scored me an excellent client (a publishing house).

Good luck!

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 9:24 pm

And speaking of typos… *huge* not *hugs*. I can’t imagine having a *hugs crisis* :-D

“Then I had a huge crisis in my life and I was forced to look for a job.”

Marilyn Baron - October 29, 2012 - 11:00 pm

Thanks so much for your wonderful post and for answering everyone’s questions. We really appreciate it.

Serena Tatti - October 29, 2012 - 11:18 pm

Hi Marilyn,
Thanks so much for having me here. I really enjoyed it.
:-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

Nas - October 30, 2012 - 1:47 am

Hi Marilyn,

Thanks for featuring my lovely friend Serena here today!

Using Serena’s services is the difference between being published or not!

Congratulations Serena for the expanding business!

Serena Tatti - October 30, 2012 - 7:21 am

Hi Nas,
Thank you, and thanks also for being a part of my business. Nas is doing some consulting work for me, as well as running her Blog Tour business. She’s handled tours for some big name authors!

Thanks for dropping in, Nas.

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