“Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
The Substantive (or Structural) Editor’s job is to delve deeply into issues of content and style. Her goal is to work closely with the author to improve style, structure and clarity of a manuscript, making suggestions for changes, but not to change the writing itself – this is always the prerogative of the author. After establishing the structure and sequence of a manuscript, the Substantive Editor will ensure that all material is clear, logical and comprehensive, then make suggestions for improvement in style, structure and content.
One of the first steps of working with a manuscript is to examine the overall structure. Before committing to substantive editing, authors may request a "Reader's Report", which provides them with a detailed critique of the manuscript. The report offers constructive feedback that will help authors refine their work and improve chances for getting it published.
Reader's Reports include:
1. General Review - comparable to a review you'd get in a literary magazine or newspaper.
2. Detailed discussion of Strengths & Weaknesses in the following areas:
A common pitfall writers experience is getting "too close to their work" and no longer able to see through the eyes of their readers. That's in part due to the fact that we use different parts of our brains to construct (create) and to de-construct (edit or critique).
Both new and experienced writers have reported how valuable their Reader's Reports have been for improving their writing skills and training them to see through the eyes of their readers. Receiving a comprehensive critique of your work from a trained professional can be the difference between writing as a hobby and a career.
Click here to see a sample Reader's Report.
Q: Who are you writing for?
A: The reader, of course!
While your writing should be tailored for a particular kind of reader, it's good to remember that the reader's task is always to decipher the code and understand the content of what the writer has written. To make this easier, it's important to structure writing in a way that maximizes the reader's ability to comprehend.
The FOG formula, a readability formula developed by Robert Gunning in the 1950s, takes into consideration (1) the total number of words, (2) the number of words of three or more syllables, as well as (3) the total number of sentences. A good 'readability index' is between the 10 and 12 range.