Editing your work

By Dana P Skopal, PhD

Word-processing is tool for writing texts, but this means we need to know how to revise and edit our written work. We need to write for our audience, but can we get it right the first time we type up our message or put pen to paper?

Editing can involve refining and checking our message. This checking can be a minor / light edit or a major re-ordering of information. It is important that writers and their managers understand what the editing process can entail.

Firstly, a light edit may involve a few small changes per page, such as checking spelling, grammar etc. However, though your sentences may be better after a minor edit, do you need to consider a major edit to check that your message is clear for your reader?

A major edit may involve:

  • reorganising the text so your key points are accessible
  • providing headings, summaries and other signposts for the reader (document design)
  • eliminating wordiness (replacing complex words will simple ones)
  • checking logic and coherence
  • changing the tone (or register)
  • checking percentage level of passive verbs and focusing on active voice
  • checking accuracy of references.

An effective writer can get their message across to their reader. So focus on what are the key points that you want your reader to understand and guide your reader to them. Perhaps think of editing as revising your message with your reader in mind and not just checking spelling (or thinking that is proof-reading). We have found that doing a major edit results in more effective documents.

Our thanks go to Melanie Law, who lectures in Language Practice, North-West University, South Africa, for opening up this discussion in the professional workplace.

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