OK, the obvious does apply here. Typos, misspellings, and bad grammar are the easy answers for why anything written needs editing. However, most spell/grammar checks will alert a writer to the worst of those. And going back over what you write can also catch a huge number of errors.
And if that was my only argument for editing, I wouldn’t be writing a blog.
The obvious reason for editing is more a reason for reviewing and less for actual editing. There are two screaming big reasons for editing: 1) writers stop seeing what they wrote and start seeing what they intended; 2) just because something is obvious to the writer, does not mean it is obvious to readers.
What You Say v What You Mean
I talk about this regularly. People generally know their message when they’re writing. The problem is that getting the words right takes time – sometimes the first way you put something down doesn’t quite convey what you really want. It could be choosing the right tone, words, or format. After a while, the brain decides it has had enough and decides that whatever it is you have on the page, it is right.
That switch in the brain is a mystery to me. Is it based on time, your expertise on the topic, how many martinis you had the night before, or what? Yes. I suspect all of those things – including “what” – play a part.
Something else I’ve discovered is that the more important the item I’m writing, the harder it becomes to switch my brain back. That’s one reason why I only submit drafts – my clients are responsible for the final product. And when it comes to something I’ve written for myself, I get someone else to read it.
But That’s so Obvious
Actually, probably not. A brick wall is obvious, but who writes about brick walls?
When you become an expert, the basics can seem obvious. But that’s because You Are The Expert. The rest of us are not experts and may not even know the basics – that’s probably why you’re writing.
Similarly, when working on your own story, things can seem obvious because they’ve always been that way for you. Note the “for you” part. We all live different lives and have different perspectives, what’s normal for me may seem dramatic to someone else. (Hell, normal for me is abnormal to most.)
Having someone else go over your work can catch those references that make sense only to you.
Why an Editor
While having someone review your written work is a good idea, is not the same as having your work edited. The right type of editor will ask questions that help you clarify, not just what you wrote, but what you actually meant. An editor will also help you explain those things that seem so obvious you don’t know how to explain them.