At some time in your life, someone is bound to ask you to edit a document or paper that they have written. Maybe you have a friend that admires your writing skills and wants you to read through their paper that they need to submit for school. Or your boss could possibly need some reports submitted and asks you to look through it before he passes it in. The tasks can actually be challenging because you might not know what you should be editing for. But with practice and simple guidelines, editing could be easier.
Read through it twice and then edit
One of the best things to do is “measure twice and cut once.” This means to make sure of all that you are doing before you make changes. In writing, plan carefully before you take actions. Make sure that you read through the entire document or paper before you remove, add or change something. As the editor, you should learn to identify the writer’s tone and voice and make sure that you understand what the subject matter is.
You could also try asking the writer or whoever wants you to look through their paper of the type of suggestions that he or she wants from you. If you feel something is not in its correct place, ask them. You could also suggest where parts of the paper could be expanded and if words are spelled correctly if you are not entirely sure of a couple words.
Be cautious of homonyms
Now this is one of the most common errors for writers. Many people do not check their work for typos. It is inevitable sometimes especially when a writer is too focused on one thing. Students and even people who have been writing for many years could still use the wrong word. Pay attention to these small errors that could make drastic changes in the document.
Know the writing style
When you read through the document a couple times, try to figure out the writer’s writing style. It may vary from how you write and how you use certain words. Take for example the work “email” and “e-mail.” It is implicating the same thing but the only different is the hyphen in between. There really is no universal right answer. It is basically a style choice. If you come across a dilemma like this, ask the writer about how their school or company prefers and make sure that that certain word(s) are consistent all throughout the entire paper.
If you need more information, then just ask
You may come across some words and sentences that do not make sense to you. If you are not sure, then make sure that you ask the writer because it may be vital in the document. It could be a common mistake for writers to jumble their thoughts together when they really mean one thing. Make note in the paper and ask the writer of the words, sentences and explanations that you do not understand.
Do not make changes based on your own decisions
Being an editor is not an easy job. The fact of the matter is, you basically have to clean up the messy writing without changing the meaning of the sentence. The tip you have to remember is to know what to change and what to leave alone. If you come across a sentence that you feel is not right or just simply do not like, make a judgment call. Ask yourself, “Is it wrong, or is it simply not what I would write?”
When you do come across sentences of such, consider what the writer’s tone and voice is because they are a very different individual compared to yourself. What is the purpose of the entire paper and who are the intended readers?
Do not let editing defeat you
Editing can be one challenging task, but with some practice, an open mind and great guidelines, you can get through it with flying colors. With editing papers, the reader can expect one great document, the writers looks more polished and organized and you develop one fundamental skill which could make you a better writer also.
About Sandra Miller
Sandra Miller is freelance short story author and graduate of Literature from the NYU, where she wrote for the students journal and tutored students in writing. She recommends authors use professional editing services Help.Plagtracker. Now she is writing her first YA novel.
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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