Tips for editing documents
Editing text is not science but an art. It’s not always easy to do it correctly. Follow these ten tips to transform difficult texts.
- Edit your work. It is difficult to be objective when it comes to your own work. Give the job to a friend and ask them for help when you need it.
- Do not confuse proofreading and editing. Editing is more than just crossing the t’s and putting the I’s. Before you begin, make sure to know how much editing is required. Do you need to reduce or restructure the document? Is it logically and sequentially written?
- Consider the reader. Think about who is reading the document, and what its purpose is. Find out if you don’t already know. As editor, your job is to make it as simple and easy as possible for readers to understand and read.
- A style guide is available. A style guide will ensure that grammar and spelling issues are presented in the same manner. You don’t want to write ‘organise’ in one paragraph and then organize’ the next. You can access most style guides for university and broadsheet newspapers online.
- Before you begin editing, scan the document. It is important to read it. This will help you to get an idea of the structure, tone, and style, as well as how long it will take.
- Track changes can be used to edit documents so that the author can see exactly what your actions were. This gives them control and makes them more likely to take your advice.
- Read the document line-by-line, looking for meaning and evaluating whether each sentence flows logically from the previous one. Make sure that the paragraphs aren’t too long. If necessary, insert headings to break up and guide the reader through the document.
- Reduce the length of sentences and eliminate unnecessary phrases. It is difficult to read long sentences, so reduce them. You don’t have to be afraid of using more full stops. You’ll likely find phrases and words that have no meaning if you look closely. These should be removed.
9. Do not rely on spell-checkers. Spell-checkers are not always reliable. A dictionary is a great resource if you are unsure about the spelling or meaning of a word. These are available online or in hard copy.
- Go through your work. This is a chance to verify small, but crucial details such as whether the chapter headings match the contents list or whether footnotes and chapters are correctly numbered.