Becoming the Friendly Editor

As a co-worker and editor, your value is your intuitive sense of your business and what you are reading. How can you become the friendly editor? How do you help review your colleague’s documents?
You don’t need a PhD in English composition to become an editor. Some of the best editors are co-workers. For those people who are not professional editors and might be asked to read a colleague’s work, here are some resources and tips.

  1. Learn writing mechanics gradually over time. Grammar Girl provides entertaining and educational short audio or video tips on grammar.
  2. Plan on more than twice as much time for editing than you expect. In fact, the old rule 80% of the work is done in 20% of the time AND 20% of the work is done in 80% of the time might be more true with editing. Editing can take longer than producing the first document. When editing, pad your estimated time, be ready for questions and a second or third edit (especially when the document is important).
  3. Don’t rush editing. PS Don’t edit when you are hungry. If you are in a hurry to go to lunch, trying to make a deadline or leaving the office, you won’t be able to focus on your colleague’s work. As much as possible, ask for and plan extra time for editing.
  4. Find errors by reading the text from end to beginning (or from bottom to top). Reading backwards prevents your mind from assuming it knows what it sees. You may be able to more easily catch double-words like “the the” that break across lines in a paragraph or repetitive sentences. And be ready for the victim of spellcheck – the correctly spelled word that is the wrong word. You may also be able to catch typos in your product names or industry terms that computer spellcheck cannot catch.

Ramping-Up the Editing

Once editing a few documents, you will start to become more comfortable. Take your editing to the next level.

Are you editing a small document?

Read a small document, like presentation slides or an executive summary out loud. Read the document loud and slow, almost like you are dictating the words to a typist. You will catch awkward sentences, missing verbs or confusing logic when you have trouble speaking the words or listening to what you said.

What about a large document?

Flip through a large document, like a proposal, before reading it. Just get a gist of how many pages, what is in the table of contents, types of words in an index, how many illustrations or when tables are used. You won’t have time to read a large document out loud, so you will need a mental map of where your editing will be focused. You’ll need to proof read a large document front to back.

The more you edit, the faster you will be able to edit future documents. If you do not enjoy editing, especially after editing several documents, help your fellow staff member find another person who can review documents. If all else fails, and no editor can be found, contact me and I will put you in touch with a few freelance editors who can help you out.