How to Edit any Piece of Writing

The editing process is not uniform; it varies depending on the specific piece of writing. Certain works require more extensive and diverse editing approaches to achieve a publish-ready state. Nonetheless, the ultimate objective of any editing job remains consistent: to enhance the writing’s strength to its fullest potential.

A strong piece of writing effectively realizes the author’s intentions. If the author is a student striving to write a compelling essay that earns an A, a strong essay is one that aligns with the assignment’s requirements. Conversely, for a marketer aiming to drive conversions for an e-commerce client, a strong email is one that garners a high open rate and persuasive content resulting in sales. By carefully editing with the goals in mind, any piece of writing can evolve from unconvincing to powerful.

Before embarking on the editing process, it is essential to identify the writer’s objectives. These goals should be at the forefront during editing, as they dictate the necessary changes and recommendations for the author’s subsequent drafts.

Additionally, it is beneficial to familiarize oneself with standard proofreader’s marks, particularly when working with hard copies. These marks facilitate clear communication of suggested revisions to the writer and other collaborating editors.

What are you editing?

Every type of writing has its editing techniques. For instance, when editing a cover letter, you would typically engage in developmental and structural editing first, followed by line editing and proofreading. When editing a press release, it is important to incorporate fact-checking into the editing process, along with content editing, copy editing, and proofreading.

Before commencing the editing process, it is crucial to acquaint oneself with the conventions and restrictions associated with the specific type of writing. Similarly, if proofreading a piece, it is necessary to familiarize oneself with the formatting requirements applicable to that particular style of writing. For instance, résumés and white papers possess distinct and precise formats. Academic papers usually adhere to the MLA, APA, or The Chicago Manual of Style guidelines. If unsure about any specific guidelines, online resources can be consulted to gain a better understanding.

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Converse with the Writer

Before starting the editing process, communicate with the writer to understand their goals and process for the piece. This dialogue helps determine the appropriate type of editing required. For example, you can identify whether developmental editing is needed for a rough draft or if content editing is more appropriate for a piece that has already resolved larger structural issues.

The writer may seek specific feedback, such as assessing the likability of the protagonist in their short story or evaluating the clarity of the points made in their critical essay. They may also seek your initial impressions as a first-time reader. Such as determining if their introductory guide to HTML is too advanced for beginners or if they come across as knowledgeable in their blog post.

In certain cases, the writer may inform you that they intentionally broke certain grammar or style rules to create a specific effect, such as directing the reader’s attention to key points or emphasizing themes in their work. When this occurs, the focus of your editing shifts more towards maintaining clarity rather than adhering strictly to grammatical correctness. The goal is to assist the author in avoiding confusion among readers when intentionally breaking conventions.

Bear the reader’s interest in mind

Always keep the intended reader in mind when editing. Consider the tone, word choices, and organization that will best serve the reader. Take into account factors such as the reader’s reading level, familiarity with the subject matter, and the purpose for reading the piece.

One effective way to assess if a piece is suitable for its intended reader is by evaluating its readability.

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he degree to which it is legible and understandable by the target audience. Readability encompasses various aspects, including sentence structures and word choices. Some apps like Grammarly Editor offers suggestions to improve the readability score of a document. For instance, if you are creating a presentation for middle schoolers but the readability score indicates a college level, significant edits are required to adjust it to their reading level.

Create an Editing checklist

To ensure thorough editing without overlooking important aspects, creating an editing checklist is a helpful approach. Remember that different types of editing, such as proofreading and structural editing, may require distinct checklist items. It’s important to note that many editing tasks do not fit neatly into predefined categories, particularly if you are not a professional editor but rather the go-to wordsmith for your team.

For most editing assignments, a reliable checklist typically includes the following:

Check for spelling mistakes.
Review punctuation for errors.
Ensure parallel structure.
Verify subject-verb agreement.
Check for improper use of conjunctions and prepositions.
Confirm consistent tense usage.
Maintain consistent tone throughout.
Look out for formatting mistakes.
Focus on clarity of the content.
Once you have a comprehensive editing checklist in place, you are good to go. You edit any variety of content, even when working from your phone or any other device!

A thoughtful and organized editing process is essential for producing great writing. It involves carefully considering the goals of the piece and consistently keeping them in mind. By doing so, an unclear rough draft can be transformed into a compelling and communicative work of writing.

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