It’s question I get asked all the time, “What does an editor do? Is it just grammar?”
The short answer? No, it’s not just editing.
Editing is about content, voice, style and images. It’s not just adding the polish to the finished piece; it’s about inspiring your writers and pushing them past their limits.
See, when you edit, you have to do it in cycles. If you think you’re done after one cycle, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Writing only becomes better through re-writing. It’s a fact, a sad and harsh fact that writers and content producers have to deal with. Do you think Shakespeare wrote Hamlet on the first try? That Poe didn’t have failed poems? Think of your favorite poem – I guarantee that the version that you know and love so well, was not the original version that was scribbled down by its creator.
So, just how do you get better at this editing? You just need some time, practice and a little creativity.
Editing Your Own Work
If you’re editing your own work, step back after your first draft.
There’s no way you’ll be able to indiscriminately edit the hundreds of words that you just spent two hours on. That word you missed in the fourth sentence? Your mind will fill in the gap and, before you know it, you’ll have error-riddled content filling up your website.
That’s why best thing you can do for your own work is to step back. In fact, leave the spot where you wrote the damn thing! I’ve found that after writing in the same place for hours on end, at about the fifth or sixth hour, I begin to fidget and get distracted. All of a sudden, my email needs to be checked every ten minutes and my Facebook newsfeed suddenly got a whole lot more interesting. Leaving changes your atmostphere and gets you out of that work slump. When you come back to your piece (no sooner than two hours later), you’ll be ready to make your edits.
Editing Other’s Work
Now, if you’re in charge of editing the work of others, it’s a bit easier to be non-biased.
First, take a look at the first paragraph. Does it grab your attention? Does it tell you everything you need to know? Better yet, does it give you a reason to keep on reading?
That last question can stump a lot of writers, especially if you leave it as just an editorial note. So, my suggestion to writers is, work on the action. If you can introduce the action, the reason why I should keep reading, then you’ll have me hooked as a reader.
After that, you want to continue to ask questions as you read the article. Why does each sentence belong? Is there a better way to say it? Can you combine two sentences and still the same message across?
Your goal now is to tighten up that writing and make it concise. Make sure that there’s a reason for every single word on the page. If it lacks a reason, a real reason (not just that it sounds cool), then it has to go.
I could go on, for pages, on how to properly edit. But when it comes down to it, the important thing is that you find a style that works for you.
Begin by asking the generic questions and slowly morph them into your own. It’ll be personality to your editing and it’ll be bring the personality out of the piece. So, go ahead, and start editing. You’re only going to get better with time.