There is a saying: “A good friend knows all your stories. A best friend helped you write them.” But they forget what the most useful friend does – they help you edit them.
Okay, that might be a bit much, but everyone has that friend they can go to if they need a quick proofread on something – the unofficial English editor friend who never complains or even gives so much as a sigh when you ask for help. Want to make sure your social media rant is typo free? Check. Have a novella you’re trying to get published? They’ve got your back. Just finished your 50-page thesis? They tell you to send it right over. These people are not just friends – they are the absolute darlings of the English world.
But, what exactly makes someone that English editor friend? How do you know you’re asking for help from the right person?
The first sign you’ve met your unofficial English editor is their natural grasp for the English language. These are the types of people who send impeccable work emails and whose social media updates display nothing less than perfect grammar. Text talk? Absolutely out of the question. A world of “lol” and “brb” is a nightmare for the English editor friend. Their texts are more along the lines of, “Oh my gosh, that’s so funny! I can’t stop laughing!” Or, “Sorry, I have to run a quick errand, I’ll be back as soon as I can.” While text talk is aimed at being quick and easy, this friend seems to relish the thought that goes into each and every properly typed word. The English editor friend appreciates a correctly placed comma or period for the sake of a clean appearance. Polished pages of correct grammar offer a thrill for these friends, but not as big of a thrill as having an error-ridden project plopped down in front of them and getting the chance to work their magic.
Another thing to look for in an English editor friend is avid reading and, possibly, writing. Properly structured English is something that is learned by exposure and practice. If you’ve got a friend whose nose is almost always in a book, chances are they’ve got a fairly strong grasp on the rules of syntax and grammar. Writing is an added bonus, but not necessarily a prerequisite for being the English editor friend. If they do write, though, it certainly adds to their experience.
While this is an extension of being an avid reader and writer, the English editor friend often has a degree in a related field, such as Creative Writing or English. If they write for a living, you don’t even need to guess anymore – they’ll be happy to take a look at something their friend wrote. Even without a degree or career in writing, this friend is almost always drawn to things related to the field, whether it’s a trip to the library or interest in a writing club at the local coffee shop. Pair this with great grammar and syntax skills and you’ve more than likely found the editor you’ve been looking for.
Sometimes the traits of a natural English editor are just that – natural. They have the innate abilities of undying patience and attention to detail. This is the type of person who you give a manuscript expecting them to point out an error or two per page, but somehow they manage to find nine or ten. When they give the manuscript back, you can tell they thoroughly enjoyed raking through your work and making those small corrections – not in a smug way to show off their English abilities, but because they helped in the process of creating a polished final project. For these English editor friends, one of the best sights in the world is a clean page of correct English and formatting.
And that “undying patience” mentioned above? That’s no joke. The English editor friend does not just do a quick scan of your work and then send it right back. It’s not in their nature. No, this is the friend who will not only scour your paper for mistakes, but stare at a sentence for a solid five minutes deciding if it would sound better rearranged some other way. Making sure the grammar and syntax are correct is a given, but they’re also always making sure your work has good “flow” – you know, that it sounds good and isn’t choppy. Even if you did just want them to check for typos, the chances are they’re going to do all of the above anyway because that’s just who they are. If you want their help, you’re going to get all the help they can give you whether you want it or not.
The problem is that often the English editor friend is overlooked or the scope of the project underestimated. They hardly ever say no because they thoroughly enjoy being a part of the process and helping their friends. Nor do they complain when they rearrange their plans to spend a night at home diligently reading over your work because they want to see their friend succeed. Once you find your English editor friend, don’t abuse them or their kindness. They wouldn’t help you if they didn’t want to see you do well, so be sure to show your appreciation. These friends are taking time out of their own day to make sure your work looks polished and professional – and that, by extension, you look polished and professional, as well.
Think about getting your English editor friend a gift. At the very least, send them a thank you card. And if you’re the English editor friend, you’re awesome. Treat yourself to some new notebooks and ink pens. Keep making the written world a prettier one!
Post by Online English Editor.
Online English Editor is a professional editing and proofreading service.