Render Unto Edit
Editing can be a misleading subject. Deceptively simple (after all, the writing is already done, is it not?), in reality it comprises a variety of levels from complex content analysis to mundane format requirements to critical, often overlooked spell- and punctuation-checking. To be done well, editing requires a lens with a fish-eyed scope.
Perhaps you have written a book or an article that is not quite ready for submission. Prepublication editing is usually a necessity since publishing houses no longer can be counted on to smooth out the rough edges; they haven't the time.
Because your readers, assuming you've got their attention (and this can be negative as well as positive), develop a lasting first impression based on the quality of your writing, substantive editing is important for formal writing.
There is nothing wrong with doing it yourself. However, of many attemped self-editors not many are chosen. There is not much to be done about dys-edit-ia save buttonholing friends or colleagues, attending slavishly to the spell-checker (useful but far from invulnerable), or, in sufficiently dire straits, contacting a professional.
Medical editing, my specialty, requires the editor to have at hand reference materials, searching tools, and sufficient background knowledge to realize, faced with unfamiliarity, what she doesn't know, and to remedy that deficit to the extent appropriate
to the intent of the material.
It's a challenge that I savor, and
take very seriously.
Last but hardly least—Although some consider grammar, syntax, spelling, and the like as trivial and even extraneous, my stance is that, in formal settings, these are integral to the act of communication and therefore inseparable from the writing process.
Up to and including use of hyphens (gasp!). In today's culture hyphens are disdained, and because people do not understand their proper place (the marks, not the people) they are being dropped from the written language (rather like the plight of semi-colons). This is unfortunate, as these marks help convey meaning, which is, after all, the purpose of all punctuation. Consider this sentence:
Officials from the traffic plagued city of Arvada met to discuss their options.
Notice how the eye screeches to a halt and confusion momentarily reigns. See how easily the flow can be restored (if not to Arvada): Officials from the traffic–plagued city of Arvada ...