As long as the writer's wishes are taken into account, most manuscripts benefit from a judicious edit
By this she did not mean something Lynne Trussy – the odd misplaced apostrophe or split infinitive – but substantial errors in form, style, continuity, and judgment that she regularly encountered in novels from respectable publishing houses. Genuine mistakes that should have been rectified.
We have witnessed, in the past 15 years, the close of an era of great editors such as Diana Athill, Jenny Uglow, John Blackwell and Charles Monteith; they seem to have been replaced by more modest souls who often spot the literals but dare not open their mouths regarding more substantial matters. Perhaps they are ill-equipped, or lack the gravitas to be heeded when they do?
But this over-simplifies what actually happens. Writers who fiercely insist that their publishers print exactly what they have submitted will often have subjected their work to the scrutiny of trusted readers, whose judgments they are prepared to accept. I suspect Ian McEwan is not much edited at Cape, but he and Craig Raine read each other's work before its final submission, forensically tweezering cliches as they go. Surely it is better to enlist the opinion of one's most respected peers, than that of a house editor, however much one admires their acuity?
Most of us, though, do both. After all, one wants to publish the very best version of the text that is possible. If anyone – friend, relative, fellow writer, editor – can improve my work by as little (or as much) as the necessary substitution of a semi-colon for a comma, I am grateful to them. Editing is what we need, and if we have any sense at all, what we want. That's pretty obvious, isn't it?
Rick's full piece at The Guardian.