Review for meaning; edit for clarity
Before you start editing someone’s writing, you need to be clear about the brief. The four types or stages of editing are:
- Structural editing
If your brief is to proofread a document, you may check accuracy with the writer, but your focus will be on the little things, such as grammatical errors and typos, that detract from the document.
When you’re reviewing a document, you overlook the little things to make sure the document is logical and leaves no questions unanswered.
Your brief may be to do all types of edits for the same document in which case, you must start at the top with the review.
When you review a document, you need to place yourself in your readers’ shoes and ask yourself if the report works:
- Will the readers be informed?
- Will the readers be able to make an informed decision?
With a structural edit, you need to find the bones of the report to see if the structure is appropriate. Often with this type of edit, you will cut and paste sections to change the order of the information.
Sometimes this edit will reveal gaps you need to consult the writer about. You need to take care with a structural edit that you do not change meaning.
When you are copyediting, your task is to improve the language and tone of a document and make sure it reads well. The paragraphs and sentences need to be clear and concise and the language appropriate.
Although you may have picked up some errors while copyediting, proofreading is a separate stage. If you have made comprehensive changes to the document, put it aside before proofreading it.
When proofreading, look for:
- Accuracy – correct referencing, typos etc.
- Styles – has the writer used the styles outlined in their style guide?
- Consistency at every level – headings, spacing, styles etc.
- Layout – does the report look visually attractive?
Although we seldom achieve perfect copy, a thorough edit improves clarity and readability.
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