When you’re writing for the web, you want to make sure that your content is easy to read and that it flows well. Editing your content before publishing helps you achieve all this while making sure that none of those pesky grammatical errors or oh-so embarrassing typos makes it into the final copy.
There are several ways to make sure your work gets edited. You can self-edit the article, ask family and/or friends, get peer editing done or hire a professional editor. In this 5-part series, we’ll walk you through the basics of editing and give you tips on how to make the most of however you choose to get edited.
In part 1, I’ll explain why you need editing and what you can expect from the process. Next, in Part II, I’ll share some tips on how to self-edit your article. In Part III, I’ll show you how to get honest feedback from friends and family editing your work. In Part IV, I’ll wade into the world of peer editing. Finally, in Part IV, I’ll help you understand what it’s like to work with a professional editor.
Grab a cup of coffee and let’s get started.
What is Editing and Why You Need It
Editing is the process of improving and refining your writing before it’s published. It’s important because it makes your writing more consistent, more readable, and more persuasive. The goal of editing is to make sure that your content is clear, coherent and error-free so that your readers don’t have to work hard to understand what you are saying.
There is a significant difference between editing and proofreading; however, the terms are often used interchangeably. So, how are they different?
As Heidi Thorne puts it, “Editing is all about the message. Proofreading is all about the mechanics.” Editing focuses on the flow, structure, organisation, and content of your article. An editor will look at what you are trying to achieve with your article and ensure that it meets the brief. On the other hand, proofreading is more about fixing spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. It is typically done after the article has already been edited.
At this point, you might be wondering if you even need editing or is proofreading sufficient. The answer is: you need proofreading at a minimum but, ideally, you should have your article both edited and proofread.
If you’ve ever been through the editing process you know how much of a difference it can make to your article to have another pair of eyes look it over. However, if you are on the fence, here are some reasons you need editing:
- It helps you find the blind spots in your writing. Sometimes, when you’re writing, you can miss out on important background information because you automatically assume the reader knows what you’re talking about. An editor will ask you incisive questions that can help you figure out these gaps and add the necessary information that makes your article even more impactful.
- It ensures that you meet your goals. A good editor will discuss your goals for the article and who your target audience is before going through the editing process. They will keep these goals in mind and give suggestions on how to best achieve them.
- Good writing follows a consistent narrative, structure, and flow. Sometimes, this flow is broken because you don’t want to delete certain words or paragraphs you’ve become attached to. An editor will work with you on the structure and help you trim any content that doesn’t add value to your article. They will ensure that the tone of your article is consistent and matches what your audience expects.
- Going through the editing process will help you become a better writer. A good editor will tell you what your strengths are and also point out areas for improvement. Over time, you’ll see an improvement in your writing and find yourself making fewer errors.
Now that you understand the importance of editing, let’s find out what a typical editing process looks like.
The Editing Process
The editing process is a series of steps a draft goes through to become the best version of itself. Every editor follows their own process and while they may change the order depending on what works for them, there are certain steps they follow. Pro tip: if you’re self-editing, ideally, you should begin with steps 1 and it’s best if you finish with step 6.
- Start with ‘why’: Why are you writing this article? How will it benefit your audience? What would you like to achieve through this article? Getting a keen understanding of this works as a kind of rubric against which to edit the article. Let your editor know what your goals are with the article so they can help you meet them.
- Read the entire article: Go through the article to get a feel of it. Mark anything which jumps out as you read but avoid doing a proper edit. Pro tip: read as a ‘reader’ and not as an editor. If you were the intended audience, what would you think of the article? With this mindset in place, you’ll be able to sniff out all the spots that need improvement without risking over-editing.
- Developmental editing: This is where you look for problems in structure, flow, organisation, and overall narrative. Are there any concepts that need to be explained or have you made any fallacious arguments? Or perhaps, a paragraph is a better fit in a different place? Sometimes, editors even break up paragraphs and use the sentences in different parts of the article where they may be more suitable. Typically, at this stage, the editor will ask insightful questions and leave detailed comments on what changes need to be made and why.
- Line editing: The next step is to go through each line, see if they make sense, are powerful, and flow well. Here, the editor checks for word choice, points out repetitive words and sentences, highlights cliches, and removes redundancies. They fix punctuation, grammatical errors and typos as they come across them but do not do a thorough proofread.
- Revision: Once the developmental editing and line editing are done, the article will be sent back to you for revisions. You may choose whether to accept or reject the changes and, and you could also reach out to the editor for clarifications on their comments before you act on them. Once you’re done, the editor will edit the revised draft and either send it back to you with more comments and suggestions or move on to the next step.
- Copyediting/ Proofreading: This is the final stage where the editor does a thorough check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Here, the editor also checks for consistency in usage. For example, have you written a particular word in the same manner everywhere? Are the numbers written in a consistent style? This is where a style guide comes in handy as it’s easier for your editor to know which styles to follow. Once they’ve proofread your article, they’ll send you the final version. All you have to do now is publish the article and break out the bubbly.
Getting Your Article Edited
There are four ways you can make sure your article goes through the editing process:
- Self-edit: You can edit the article yourself if you don’t have the budget to hire a professional editor and/or need a quick edit. Apps like Grammarly or ProWritingAid can help you fix typos and grammatical errors; however, you may find it trickier to put your article through developmental and line editing.
Pro tip: wait for a couple of days before attempting to edit your article as it will allow you to look at it with fresh eyes. You are more likely to catch problems that way. For more tips on how to self-edit like a pro, check out Part II of our series on editing.
- Ask family and friends: Reach out to family and friends to give you feedback on your article. Pick those who are most likely, to be honest with you and/or have some subject matter expertise. Let them know when you intend to publish it so they can send it back to you in time. We’ll be sharing our guide on asking for help without coming across as a jerk shortly.
- Peer editing: There are a bunch of writers’ communities where you can swap feedback. You can join free Facebook Groups or paid online programmes where writers edit each other’s work and provide other forms of support. Choose a few communities in your niche and start sharing your work. Remember: peer groups are about give-and-take, so mark out some time to also give feedback to other writers. Find out how to make the most of peer editing in Part IV (coming soon).
- Hire a professional editor: If you have the budget for it, hire a professional editor. They bring years of experience to the table and can help you transform your draft into the best possible version of it. Make sure you pick your editor carefully as a bad editor can cause more damage than good. Ask your friends to recommend any freelance editors they may have worked with, hire one on Upwork, or use an editing service. In Part V, you’ll learn some tips on how to make the most out of working with an editor.
Editing is a critical part of the writing process and a second look at the draft can make all the difference in the world. So, make sure you get your draft edited or edit it yourself before you hit ‘Publish’.
In Part II, we’ll share some tips and tricks on how you can self-edit like a pro. You’ll learn how to ace the editing process and some of the major errors you need to keep an eye out for.
This article is Part I of our series on editing. Subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll let you know when we publish something new. We’ll also send you our style guide template once it’s ready.