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What's your best tip when editing?

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I got this from a website somewhere, which I have always found useful. Can't remember the address of the site though unfortunately.


Many people get confused about the difference between copy editing and proof reading, but the two roles are in fact very different. A proof reader looks mainly for spelling and punctuation errors, and usually sees the typescript after the editor and typesetter have already worked on it. What they are in effect doing is checking the typeset proofs to see if the alterations suggested by the copy editor have been implicated. Any errors spotted are then marked with different coloured pens using the proof reader’s symbols. A red pen denotes an error by the typesetter, and a blue pen denotes an error that the proof reader has spotted, and by definition the copy editor has not.

What then does the copy editor look for? Here are some of the basic rules:

1. Names of books, journals, newspapers and magazines should be italicised

2. Avoid the passive voice - e.g. - the reader is shown that the ambassador played an active role in the negotiations becomes the author shows that the ambassador played an active role in the negotiations

3. Spell out centuries - e.g. 21st century becomes twenty-first century.

4. Use of numerals (numbers). Never start a sentence using numerals, always spell them out or if possible, change the order of words. For example, 100% of women when asked preferred Green and Blacks chocolate becomes, when asked, 100 percent of women stated that they preferred Green and Blacks chocolate

5. Percentages. Spell out the word percent rather than using the % sign

6. Numbers 1-10 are spelt out, higher numbers you can use numerals

7. When using numbers higher than 20, e.g. 21 etc, place a hyphen between the two numbers, e.g. twenty one becomes twenty-one

8. Use figures for decades, e.g. the sixties becomes the 1960's. This is to ensure that the reader knows which century you are referring to, as well as decade

9. Specific words and phrases: upon in most cases becomes on, while though becomes although, for instance becomes for example, the word interestingly is best avoided altogether.

10. Avoid wherever possible the use of meaningless modifiers, such as really, very etc.

11. Use N (small) dashes for dates, e.g. 1961 - 1963 becomes 1961–1963.

12. Use commas with dates, e.g. July 21 1965 becomes July 21, 1965.

Hope it helps, I did most of my own editing (but not proof reading) and found it useful. Some it may apply more to non ficton, but the basics are the same ....


Best editing tool I have is my partner. She patiently reads out loud whatever it is I've written, and that process quickly throws up tons of errors: typos, duplications, logic, grammar, spellung, etc.

Next best is put the work away for a while, and don't even think about it until you've almost forgotten what it is you wrote in the first place. That way you have a chance of approaching it with fresh eyes.


Am joining this a bit late but, for what it's worth, I always:
* print out a hard copy and proof/edit on paper not on screen
* leave a few weeks between finishing the original draft and setting about proofing/editing – the 'distance' will make it much easier to approach the work objectively and to spot errors
* read it aloud – much easier to check for clarity of expression, pace, repetition etc
* any bits I'm unsure about, for whatever reason, I highlight so that I don't get too bogged down with them and go back to them with fresher eyes/a fresher brain later. I colour code them (I know, I know!  :-[ ) so I can immediately see what the query is eg repetition, language, structure etc. I find it much more useful than I've just made it sound!
* and, of course, if you have someone willing to help (and you trust them to be honest, objective, and all the rest of it) a fresh pair of eyes can be a real bonus. Even if they're not great writers theselves, they could still flag up things that just don't work for them.

Hope that helps!

Don't change to much at at once, and at a later date, review everything you edited during your last revision.

When I need to edit something I do it twice. With first editing I identify gross errors like spelling mistakes, grammar etc. and it takes time. The second time I read the whole writing faster concentrating on general sense, stylistic issues.


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