Good editing is more than just proofreading. Yes, it’s useful to have someone else check copy for typos, but it’s also an opportunity for a fresh pair of eyes to consider things the writer may not have thought of. Someone less involved in the project is more likely to flag any potential issues too.
Editing other people’s copy also makes you a better writer, as you naturally begin to pick up new ideas and techniques and become more aware of any bad habits you have.
Here are eight tips to bear in mind when editing content.
- Check the audience and purpose first – before you begin, check who this piece of content is aimed at, where it’s being used, and what the objective is. It’s impossible to go beyond simple proofreading if you’re unsure of the aim of the content.
- Read it through before editing – it’s tempting to dive in and start making tweaks as you spot elements that need attention, but sometimes the paragraph you read next may make your suggestions redundant. Instead, read the piece through once, making notes separately elsewhere if you need to, then go back and make changes.
- Cut out unnecessary fluff – as I mentioned in my recent blog post, being able to write concisely is key to keeping your audience’s attention and conveying your point successfully. Therefore, don’t be afraid to be brutal when it comes to cutting anything that doesn’t add something to the piece, and make sure every sentence or paragraph is saying something new.
- Just because it’s not what you’d write doesn’t make it wrong – it can be very easy to get stuck in and make tweaks because you’d word it differently yourself, but unless your reasons for doing so are based solidly on what your client or your audience would better respond to, be wary of over-editing. If you start to change someone else’s copy to sound more like you, there’s a danger of the piece becoming confused in terms of tone and style.
- Consider previous feedback – if you’re editing someone else’s content, and it’s for the same client or editor you’ve previously edited or written content for, try and remember if there was any feedback that needs to be considered for future pieces, for example, any preferences on sentence length, or any particular words to be avoided.
- Read aloud – this is a well known tip for editing your own content, but it’s useful for any copy. Reading a piece out loud highlights any stumbling blocks when it comes to sentence structure and can help you rethink punctuation and sentence length if necessary.
- Check the details – it’s not just about the words. Remember to check that any links are pointing to the right URL, and that any sources have been cited correctly. It’s also a good idea to quickly look up any company or individual names you’re unfamiliar with to check spelling and capitalisation.
- Consider formatting – similarly to the above, there’s no point investing so much time crafting the perfect piece of content to have the details let it down, so make sure you’re happy with the formatting before you sign it off.
Finally, if you find yourself making extensive changes, don’t forget to feed back to the original writer on the thinking behind your changes. Happy editing!