Eliminate rookie mistakes to improve your editing

Identify your role in the process, and ask yourself these 10 questions, including ‘What’s the proper tone?’ and ‘What matters most?’

Know the difference between copy editing and editing for substance. Don’t assume you are meant to do both. Key considerations:

1. How many approval cycles has this been through?

2. What gatekeepers have already signed off on it?

3. How close is the deadline?

Copy close to the end of its development process needs a light hand. If you introduce questions or suggestions, you are inviting error and undoing the work of a team that was chosen for its expertise.

In this situation, you are a copy editor. So you must think of yourself as a surgeon, not a psychologist or innovator. That means removing just the tumor while leaving healthy organs intact.

Never trust. Sorry, but that’s how it is. I’m an optimist and I believe that most people are aiming for goodness. But when it comes to copy editing, never trust yourself or others. Always look it up. Look it up, look it up, look it up. Can’t say this enough.

Plan on learning grammar, punctuation and style for the rest of your life. You’re never done. There’s always more. Here are a couple of examples of what I find many people aren’t clear on:

If you are editing for substance, ask yourself these 7 questions:

1. What does the audience need?

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