How great editing can improve your business

Many businesses don’t think they need an editor. After all, most people have been writing for years in their corporate positions, so it can be tempting to simply draft a manager into an unofficial editing services role. Here’s why that’s a bad idea.

  • Most people think editing means proofreading. Proofreading – checking for typos, spelling, grammar and punctuation – makes up only around 10% of my workload. The other 90% is a high-value analysis of audience, language, argument, structure, tone, readability and factual accuracy.
  • Nobody can accurately edit their own work. As a published author, I always hire a professional editor to review my manuscript drafts. If you’ve been working on the material for days, weeks, months, or even years, you’re too close to it – you’ll read what you want to read, not what’s actually there. An outside set of eyes is invaluable, not just for catching mistakes, but for questioning assumptions that everyone else in the organisation has overlooked.
  • Editing is strategic thinking. According to the Project Management Institute, only 4–7% of leaders are considered skilled at strategic thinking. Good editors don’t just look at a document in isolation – we see where it fits internally with the organisation’s structure, planning, values and mission, and externally with its audience, marketing goals, competitors, and national and international context. These are skills that take years to develop, which is why you need a specialist.

Every organisation and every document is different, which is why I have a flexible, tailored approach. When you request a quote, we’ll discuss exactly what you need, but my services fall into these broad categories.

Structural or substantive editing is major editing that should be done on an early draft of the document. It includes the following checks:

  • Structure – overall structure of the document, including use of headings and subheadings
  • Organisation of information – logic and flow of the document
  • Argument/thesis – clear presentation of the main argument
  • Content – checking relevance of the content to the main argument
  • Pace – checking for areas where the document may rush/drag
  • Audience – checking that the level of technical detail and style of language used is appropriate to the audience
  • Fact-checking – flagging any errors or areas of concern

Line editing is about the craft of writing, while copy editing refers to language use. I generally combine these into a single edit, taking into account the following things:

  • Paragraph structure
  • Sentence flow and structure
  • Word choice (including noting jargon, technical terms and acronyms)
  • Voice
  • Style
  • Tone
  • Readability (including editing to a specific grade level if required)
  • Audience
  • Inconsistency of language use
  • Application of a specific style guide (e.g. Australian Government Style Manual)
  • Any obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

Proofreading is a final check for spelling, grammar and typos. It should be the very last task done on a document before publication. Proofreading includes:

  • Checking for spelling errors (and consistency with US/UK/Australian spelling)
  • Checking for grammatical errors
  • Checking spelling and capitalisation of headings and captions, including in tables and figures
  • Checking data in tables (specialised service – higher rates may apply).

Proofreading is always done on a finalised, clean copy of the document (i.e. no tracked changes, comments or outstanding edits to be incorporated). Once proofreading has been completed there should be no further changes made to the document.

Formatting is about checking (and applying, as necessary) styles and layout in Microsoft Word. This includes:

  • Applying consistent styles across a document
  • Developing an organisation-specific style sheet*
  • Inserting tables of contents and figures
  • Standardising the layout of tables and figures
  • Adding page numbers, headers and footers
  • Adding title pages
  • Developing a glossary*
  • Formatting footnotes and/or a bibliography in accordance with a standard referencing system as required (referencing system must be specified)*.

* This is a non-standard service and must be specified in the original brief. This service may attract an additional cost due to the time involved.

Formatting may be included with another type of editing. When requesting a quote for formatting, please note the specific tasks you require.

Supplementary material is text that supports the main document. This can include (but isn’t limited to):

  • Content summaries or abstracts
  • Book blurbs
  • Author or presenter biographies for books or conference materials
  • Marketing materials, such as a website summary

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