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A Healthy Approach to Editing

January 4, 2010

PenOne of the hardest things to do when editing is to stop yourself from making changes every step of the way. But this is exactly what’s necessary to truly offer insightful and helpful suggestions to your writers.

Many editors began their careers as writers. And, as writers, we’re easily caught up in how each sentence can be improved. Taking a piecemeal approach to editing, however, may mean missing the main messages your writers are trying to convey and missing the key ingredient that will eventually allow those messages to ring true.

Try this tactic for a healthier – and often less-frustrating – approach to editing:

  1. Put your red pens away (or sit on your hands if you’re reading something online). Then read the entire piece from top to bottom – all the way through without stopping. (I know. It’s hard, but you can do it!)
  2. Begin to edit. Now that you’ve gotten the gist of the piece, re-read it and begin editing.
  3. Offer general suggestions – not specifics. If you want your writers to grow into their writing, give them a general idea as to what needs work. For example, “Clarify this point by citing a specific example.” vs. actually citing the example for them.
  4. Re-read with your edits to ensure you caught everything.
  5. Sit down with your writer and walk through the changes. You may wish to share your comments, give your writer time to process and then be available to chat.

That’s it. Let me know how it works out. I’d love to hear what techniques you’ve used when editing that help you gain a clear picture of what the writer is trying to convey.

Image credit: mlevy

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie permalink
    January 4, 2010 7:06 pm

    I’ll have to try that when writing/editing my thesis!

    • January 4, 2010 7:20 pm

      Hah! Let me know how it goes. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I always want to correct as I go. It’s a hard thing to remember, but it really works!

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