You wrote a piece, and you are to edit it. You don’t know what editing is, or how it is done.  In this article, you’ll find a breakdown of the basics of editing – the importance, things to look at for, and the types.

Why editing is important

Editing simply means cross-checking your writing for errors of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation.  It is important because:

  1. It gives a good first impression:  If you are to hand in an essay assignment or present your thesis, the first thing your teacher/supervisor looks out for is editing errors.  Good editing will show that you are committed to your work, while poor editing will show you are unserious.  It’s the same for writers.
  2. For clarity of message:  Editing confirms your words flows correctly, and that ideas are expressed in a clear manner.
  3. To ensure the content is just right for the reader:  In trying to share knowledge on your area of expertise, you might use words that are strange to your reader.  For example, you might be a physicist trying to explain ‘work done’ to a child, and you use definitions like, ‘work done is the product of force and the distance moved by the force’.  That child will just stare at you.  What does he know about product, or force, or distance?  Editing helps you find those technical content, and break it down to simpler concept that your targeted audience can comprehend.
  4. It could raise questions that could create follow-up posts: For example, in editing my first draft for this post, a question arose, which led to the sub-topic, ‘what type of editing do I need?’
  5. It helps you become a better writer:  Editing polishes your work, and trains you to identify errors quickly.

Things to look out for while editing:

  1.  Long introductions:  You’ll know you have long introductions if you find sentences in passive voice.  It uses the object-verb-subject pattern.  Example: The mouse was eaten by the cat.  It’s like a reported speech.
  2. Avoid words like ‘basically’, ‘essentially’, ‘ultimately’, ‘perhaps’:  These words hinder clarity of messages and should not be used except it is necessary.
  3. Writing in sequence:  This can be good if you are told to use that format.  If not, avoid it.  Sequencing can cause vital information to be hidden in the book or articles you’re writing.
  4. Excessive use of punctuations:  This is most visible in the use of the comma.  Here’s a simple rule:  Split a sentence into two if it has more than one comma in it.  Don’t attempt to use a semicolon, except you’re a professional.  The presence of many commas is an indicator of dependent clauses. Rewrite those sentences.

What type of editing should I do?

There are three basic types of editing. The type of editing you do depends on your expectations.

  1. Development editing: focuses on your plot, pace, and chronology. It ensures they are correct, and sensible.
  2. Copy editing: this editing checks your writing and language flow.
  3. Line editing: this is the most common editing writers go for. It corrects spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.

One important tip to keep in mind with editing is to not worry about it while writing.  Get your words onto paper first, no matter how awkward they feel.  You’re shoveling sand into your writing sandbox.  After that’s done, you can go back and build your castle.