Editing is the preparation of written content for publishing. It’s an important aspect of the writing process that turns a rough copy into a polished final article.
It helps to rectify mistakes, clarify messages, reduce (or build up) content to fulfil a word count, change the tone of writing, make it suit specific constraints, and hone language for an intended audience.
Learning how to be a good editor will make you a better writer overall. Knowing how to effectively edit another writer’s work gives you an “insider look” at what’s behind well-developed articles. This is because having an editing attitude teaches you how to think like a reader.
It can also make the writing process feel faster: instead of wondering “What’s next?” after each step, you’ll be able to follow a clear mental map of the journey from ideation to publishing.
Before you start writing with your red pen, learn about the different types of editing and some best practices.
Types of Editing
Seven different ways exist to edit a piece of writing. Some pieces require multiple forms of editing, even encompassing all seven! While it is uncommon for seven editors to be involved in one piece in the professional world, it is more typical for one person or a small team to perform all of these phases.
This occurs at the beginning of the writing process. It looks at “big picture” elements including the piece’s overarching vision and message, as well as if they are consistent throughout. The purpose of developmental editing is to determine how to deliver the text in a clear manner that successfully communicates its goals. If you’re developmentally editing a work of fiction, check to see if particular genre elements match what readers will expect from the plot.
Structural editing assesses the organization of your writing. It examines how the piece’s structure delivers its message, rather than assessing overall successful communication. Structural editing takes a macro view of the writing.
It focuses on the effectiveness of a piece’s message, and it is more specific compared to developmental and structural editing. It examines how a piece aligns with similar ones in publications like magazines or brand blogs. The content editor evaluates the flow and section-by-section composition, aiming to improve consistency, pacing, and appropriateness for the intended audience. They also ensure that individual sections effectively convey the writer’s thoughts. As well as adhere to the brand’s standards, voice, tone, and SEO considerations to engage a specific audience.
Copy editing is editing with a finer focus. It’s where you double-check mechanics by checking spelling, grammar, style, and punctuation. A copy editor will also improve a text’s readability, which may include finessing transitions, polishing language to fit a certain style and readership, conforming to style rules, and maintaining logical flow and continuity.
Line editing is done later in the writing process when the material and structure are nearly ready for publication. A line editor does exactly what it sounds like they scan the content line by line and optimize individual words, phrases, and sentences to have the greatest impact. Line editing focuses on style and how each part contributes to the overall aim or effect of a text. A savvy line editor will go over the text with a fine-tooth comb, focusing on and improving specific words, tightening sentence structure, and polishing tempo. This is when editing might come across as more art than science.
Fact-checking is the practice of verifying the accuracy of the facts contained in a piece of writing. This can involve verifying that vocabulary is proper for a given era in a historical fiction novel or ensuring that math or figures in a financial report are correct. Traditionally, the copy editor is in charge of this at publishing houses or other sorts of publications such as newspapers and periodicals. Any editor, however, can incorporate fact-checking into their workflow.
The proofreader performs the final step of proofreading before declaring a composition complete. They examine a print-ready facsimile of the finished piece to ensure no grammatical flaws, formatting issues, typographical errors, or layout discrepancies exist.
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