In a way, mechanical editing is comparable to the meticulous preparation of, say, a soup dish.
However far-fetched it may seem, I feel this comparison best illustrates the importance of the often-underrated service of mechanical editing. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, mechanical editing involves checking of punctuation, grammar, spelling, word breaks and a hundred other factors affecting consistency.
Now, imagine you are about to enjoy your all-time-favourite lor mee. It’s served steaming hot – overall, it looks good. One sniff and you can’t wait to feast on the thick gravy, flat noodles, fish cake, fish slices and meat dumplings. But when you take your first spoonful, you chew on a fish bone. You take a closer look and see that there are more small fish bones in your lor mee – ruining what promised to be a great meal. Fish bones shouldn’t be there in the first place, should they?
This situation can be compared to written articles. You see an article with great visuals, but, looking more closely (and actually reading it), you notice some sentences that end with wrong punctuation marks, verbs that do not match subjects, and numbers inconsistently presented as figures and words. Substantive editing, which involves reorganising, rephrasing and restructuring, helps you to give the right tone to your article and present your ideas effectively. However, it is mechanical editing that tidies up small aspects of your article, removing the “fish bones” that hinder easy reading. It ensures that elements that aren’t supposed to be in your article are not there, so that your readers can enjoy what you’ve written, and digest your ideas without distractions.
So the next time you want to publish your article without editing, ask yourself: “Would my readers want fish bones in their soup?”