So you have words on a page but they just don’t sound right?
You need a little external intervention to spruce them up, add a little liveliness and personality, or re-structure for clarity.
Before I edit anything, I make sure I understand the purpose of the text, its intended audience and how that person is going to read it.
Most content isn’t going to be read word-for-word. Readers skim to get the general drift and scan to find what they’re most interested in.
This is true for web pages but also annual reports, emails and brochures.
Knowing the purpose and target audience is important, so I know what matters most to the reader and what kind of errors to focus on.
[If you’re thinking that all errors are important, that’s true! But consistency and typos are more important in an annual report, whereas a sales brochure needs to be structured well to draw the audience in and motivate them to take action.]
While there are different depths or levels of editing, I generally focus on copyediting – the nitty gritty. [Yep, copyediting is one word, as is copywriter.
Never trust a copywriter who splits it into two words.]
Here, I focus on the details, looking for things like:
Proper grammar and syntax
Correct or preferred* spelling
Is everything clear and easy to read? If a sentence doesn’t make sense, I’ll suggest a better way of phrasing it.
Is it structured in a logical flow?
Are capitalisation and punctuation consistent?
Are headlines, cross-references, and page numbers consistent?
You get the drift. Editing looks at sentence construction, language, and whether you’ve expressed your thoughts clearly. It’s more in-depth than proofreading, and is done on earlier drafts. It should improve the overall quality of writing.
So you’re just about to send something to the printer but you want to make sure there are no glaring errors? This is where proofreading comes in.
It’s done on a final draft and I’ll look for things like:
Grammatical and punctuation errors
Inconsistencies in headlines, tables and bullet points – font, typeface, capitalisation and placement
Inconsistencies in how numerals and acronyms are presented
I’ll even check to make sure that phone numbers, internal links and contact details are correct.
If you’ve written something and it lacks spark or personality, or just sounds bland or boring, revitalisation might be in order!
Picture me coming through with a duster and spray bottle, ready to do a little spring clean.
I’ll make as few changes as possible and stick to your style and tone of voice. But I’ll also be honest if I think a section needs to be re-written or re-structured to connect with your audience. I’ll make sure I have the green light first. But if I get your go-ahead, I’ll revise, revitalise and refresh whatever is needed to make it sparkle.
*Say what? Isn’t spelling objective, so there’s a right way and a wrong way?
Well, to a degree. But there are also words that have Americanised spelling (like using a ‘z’ in ‘Americanised’ or ‘recognise’).
But there's also nuances. Sometimes, two ways of spelling a word can be correct. When I worked at MLC, we used ‘adviser’ with an ‘e’. At RetireAustralia, we used ‘advisor’ with an ‘o’. In this instance, neither one is more correct, but you need to be consistent.
* Say what? Isn’t spelling objective, so there’s a right way and a wrong way? Well, to a degree. But there are also words that have Americanised spelling (like using a ‘z’ in ‘Americanised’ or ‘recognise’).
And, as with all aspects of English, there are nuances. Sometimes, two ways of spelling a word can be correct. When I worked at MLC, we used ‘adviser’ with an ‘e’. At RetireAustralia, we used ‘advisor’ with an ‘o’. In this instance, neither one is more correct, but you need to be consistent.
Need me to weave my magic on your copy?
"Helen edited a book chapter on International Law and her insights were thoughtful and tailored. She really took the time to understand my objectives and ensure the arguments were engaging for a diverse readership. She was also delight to deal with."
DR EVE MASSINGHAM
Senior Research Fellow