Editing non-fiction

Non-fiction writing is a fairly broad term and can include articles, essays, interview, manuals, profiles, reports and reviews. The purpose of it can be to instruct, record, persuade, enlighten, inform, provoke, amuse, reassure, excite, inspire or assist. The non-fiction editor needs to ensure the aims and challenges that come with this form of writing are met.

The aim of the non-fiction editor is to ensure the work is:

  • correct
  • consistent
  • clear
  • complete
  • concise
  • compelling.

The challenges for the editor are:

  1. support the author
  2. engage the reader
  3. respect the subject
  4. satisfy the publisher.

The editor needs to consider a number of things in relation to these challenges.

1. Supporting the author

  • What is their expertise?
  • How does this text relate to their other activities?
  • What is their professional standing and reputation?
  • How skilled a writer are they?
  • How experienced are they in writing for that publication?
  • What are they trying to achieve with this piece?

2. Engaging the reader

  • Who are they?
  • Why are they reading it?
  • How are they reading it?
  • What do they expect?
  • What do they know already?
  • What is their relationship with the author and/or the text?

3. Respecting the subject

  • What is known
  • What is true, or proven, verifiable?
  • What is relevant, current or interesting?

4. Satisfying the publisher

  • What is the house style?
  • Why are they publishing this work?
  • Meet the brief.
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