10 Steps to Being a Halfway Decent Editor

by Frank Roche on October 13, 2011

in Communication, Writing

You’re not as good a writer as you think you are. As an editor, you’re worse.

Harsh? Maybe, but employee communication isn’t high school English class. What works in English class almost never works in real life.

One thing you didn’t learn in English class: proper copyediting.

No, I’m not talking about handing in little redlined versions of your essay. I’m talking about grab-you-by-the-scruff-of-the-neck-and-shake-you editing. Doing it right. And knowing when something kicks ass the way it is.

Here’s 10 Steps to Being a Halfway Decent Editor:

  1. Put down that pen. Hack editors pick up pens before they read. Step away from the pen.
  2. Read the entire document through. No…really read it. Twice.
  3. Pause and think. Look for continuity. Parallel structure. Logical groupings. Order.
  4. Now…pick up a fine point blue or red pen. If you want to be a really great editor, don’t bleed on the page. If you want to be the best editor ever, use a pencil.
  5. Hand edit. Trust me, your MS-Word markup is awful. And just because you can move paragraphs around doesn’t mean you should.
  6. Knock it off with gratuitous word changes. Your word better be better or you better forget it.
  7. Kill adverbs. Yeah, adverbs are for amateurs.
  8. Use proper proofreading marks. And do it right. Penmanship, people.
  9. Get rid of semicolons. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “All semicolons do is prove you’ve been to college.”
  10. Check your writing ego. If you’re not a better writer, know that. Your stuff will be lots better.

[Image source: Burning Settler’s Cabin]

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