There are several reasons that professional editing is far superior to editing from an amateur or friend in most cases. Many of the reasons for this are fairly obvious. Of course, professional editing is far more thorough and rigorous than editing from an amateur. Professional editing follows both traditional rules of grammar and standards of style based on a style guide such as the Chicago or AP manuals. This is critical for building text that is seamless and direct, which allows the characters, tone, voice, and narrative arc to truly jump off the page. Professional editing pays close attention to factors such as narrative consistency and effective sentence structure that are difficult for an amateur to pick up on. This difficulty is not because an amateur editor isn’t smart or talented; it’s because it takes years of editing experience and familiarity with the publishing industry to be proficient at this.
Most writers are familiar with many of these points. What often gets overlooked about professional editing is that it should transform both the manuscript and the writer. Any writer who has their work edited professionally will naturally improve. This happens as the writer sees how a professional tackles the same challenges and obstacles that they’ve been struggling with for days, months, or years. Good writers absorb the edits that a professional has made and incorporate them into their subsequent work. This happens naturally, mostly because good writers become slaves to elements of style over time. They’re naturally pulled to the elements of the language that work for them; things like direct sentences, coherent paragraphs, and realistic dialogue. The act of seeing their writing transformed in this way usually changes the way writers think about the challenges they’re facing on the blank page. This leads to more confidence and more time to spend on the nuts and bolts of creating great characters, developing a unique voice, and building rising conflict.
Professional editing is not for every writer and not for every project. But every writer who takes the craft seriously should have their work edited professionally at some point. The writers we work with have typically reached that point. They’ve been working long enough on a project or on writing in general that they know it’s time to have their work edited by a professional. This is a major step in the development of a writer, and it necessarily changes the way writers think about writing; usually for the rest of their lives.