Real editorial quality can only come through a process that allows for in-depth quality control on
pre-published content – a process that involves a sub-editor.
You may dismiss the thought of a sub-editor as a needless expense, but there are in fact many reasons to consider having someone in this role on your team…
1. They help maintain the reputation of your brand
If errors start slipping into your content, readers will quickly start to wonder whether they can trust your content – or indeed, trust you as a brand.
Even a small mistake can damage the integrity of your content. A sub-editor can help mitigate this risk by minimising the errors that creep into published content, from correcting spellings, to verifying facts and figures, to checking for logic and sense.
2. It’s like in-house user testing
Your sub-editor is often your first user. Their response to your content will provide valuable insights about how best to edit or rework it to make it as user-friendly as possible.
A good digital sub-editor will have a strong understanding of web-writing best practice and will know how to improve the usability of every piece of content. So they can highlight issues – and then fix them.
3. We don’t always spot our own mistakes
When you’re writing an article or blog, your brain is working overtime on translating abstract and complex ideas into words and sentences. This means it needs to take shortcuts to reduce the amount of resource dedicated to simpler parts of the writing process, such as spelling.
This is why a first draft is often full of great ideas – but riddled with typos.
You may think that you can self-proofread without any mistakes slipping through, but the same psychological processes are at play – it’s almost impossible to spot all your own mistakes, no matter how many times you go back and edit.
As Nick Stockton wrote in a recent Wired article, Why it’s so hard to catch your own typos: ‘When we’re proofreading our own work, we already know the meaning we want to convey. Because we expect that meaning to be there, it’s easier for us to miss when parts (or all) of it are absent. The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.’
This is why having a sub-editor is really useful. They’re a fresh pair of eyes, capable of spotting and fixing all the little mistakes that have snuck past the author.
4. They can apply style and tone of voice guidelines
Many organisations have a style guide and/or tone of voice guidelines, but that’s only half the battle. The really tricky bit is making sure your editorial policies actually get applied, and applied consistently – especially if you have many contributors, all of whom have their own, slightly different idea of what your style or voice should be.
Having a sub-editor to check every piece of content for style and tone is a great way for your brand to have a consistent voice and a consistent way of talking about things.
An experienced sub-editor can also develop or refine your editorial guidelines by making sure they are consistent and clear to follow, and by suggesting additions and clarifications in line with your changing business.
5. They can proofread, sub-edit and edit
An experienced sub-editor can approach content in a number of ways to improve its overall quality, as required.
These range from a simple last-minute proofread, checking there are no grammatical errors or typos, to a deep edit where they rewrite or restructure significant chunks of content to improve overall flow.