“My editor added several long, confusing words to my manuscript and I do NOT like it!”

“My editor added several long, confusing words to my manuscript and I do NOT like it!”

Q – 

I paid an editor more than a thousand dollars to edit my book manuscript. Rather than just correcting errors, she rewrote several sections. That would be alright, I guess, as long as the message didn’t change. However, she replaced a lot of my writing with long, confusing words. And, to be honest, I had to look some of them up. I think this “level” of writing is going to confuse my readers. It’s a how-to book, not an academic text.

Now that I’ve seen what she did, I think I’ll have to re-write what she re-wrote. Once I do that, it will need to be edited all over again and she wants to charge me for that.

What can I do?


A –

I can sympathize with your situation but I had the opposite problem. One of my books was published by a large traditional publisher. They insisted one of their editors edit my book. When the manuscript came back to me, it was FILLED with errors. I had to fix all of the mistakes, and send it back to them. The editor did another hack job after that, and then another. This went on for weeks. I finally insisted they not touch the final manuscript I sent to them. It was a NIGHTMARE.

For your situation, I recommend you first, check the contract you signed with the editor, as well as emails she sent when you were both discussing this project. If the service you purchased was simple proofreading, that’s what she should have done. If you purchased a substantive edit, which is more expensive, she may have thought that gave her license to rewrite parts of your manuscript. If you purchased “rewriting” services, that’s an even higher level but I’m sure you would have seen that word, and balked if you didn’t want that done.

If you feel she went overboard, and did more than you hired her to do, I would demand she start over, and proofread your manuscript only.

If, on the other hand, you didn’t understand how detailed the edit would be, yet that was part of the agreement, you’re likely stuck rewriting, and then having it edited all over again.

Some editors, even those who offer simple copyediting/proofreading, can’t help themselves when they see something that they believe they can make better. And, sometimes that changes the tone of the author’s book.

All authors hiring an editor should have a very detailed contract that lays out exactly what’s expected, and exactly what will and won’t be done.

I also agree with you that a non-academic audience is not going to appreciate complex words in a how-to book. Nothing interrupts a leisurely read faster than needing to open up a dictionary in the process.


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4 Responses to "“My editor added several long, confusing words to my manuscript and I do NOT like it!”"

  1. C  April 22, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Ouch! I would demand that she fix what she did without your permission.

  2. Richard Atwood  April 17, 2020 at 11:25 pm

    Worse, miracle of miracles, after a long hard haul, I had a small publisher accept my novel after years of queries all over the place. After all, I had a tight niched market product, not an easy sell. Then, I signed the contract, overjoyed. He planned to publish it asap; and had my 180,000 word novel edited in about 40 days time. Well, I was in shock. Not only did he cut the ms. by 60,000 words, altering the whole thrust of the story, but often had my characters doing and saying things I never did, or the way in which they would have spoken! Not the book I wrote. I had a fit, and only by the grace of God was able to get out of the contract, which normally would have cost me $1,000 — since I hollered so loudly, he let me go without a penalty. Thus, making me realize I would have to self-publish, or else. I then re-edited it twice over the course of a year making it much better (after ten previous times). Of course, I still made a few small errors, but am pleased with the result. Except I am not happy with the cover price I was forced to sell it at, and know it hinders sales.

  3. william adams, pe, phd  April 17, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    Always check the reviews of an editor first!
    And learn about the five levels of editing before you sign up for any.
    Too many people assume that editing means SPAG and not the more important aspects of editing.

    And be sure to get full agreement about exactly what it is you are looking for them to do for you.
    As well as what they are going to do to the mss.

    I would need to see the before and after to judge about the initial complaint above.

    And if this is not some vanity published book the author can still revert anything they do not like.
    OTOH if they are being vanity published then they deserve what they got and hopefully will learn their lesson to never do that again.

  4. Pamela Allegretto  April 17, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    I try to read mostly “indie” books, and I have read some amazing works. Almost all the authors have paid editors, and I’m shocked at how many simple grammatical and punctuation errors I find.