Editing steps to focus on for better writing

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If you want to ensure your writing is high quality, you’ll need a decent editing process. Editing takes your drafts and fine-tunes them, working to bring out the very best, and improve the mediocre. Here are four editing steps I focus on when copy editing to achieve higher quality writing. If you need more free support for your editing, I’d head over to Louise Harnby’s site. There’s a wealth of knowledge and free content.


1st editing step: Create a plan.

If you’ve finished drafting and you’re ready to begin editing – don’t go in without figuring out your game plan first. Spend time thinking about what you’ve written. What are your goals, who is your audience, what style of writing have you gone for? Write these things down, and remember them when you edit to stay on track and true to yourself.
Identify specific areas you want to focus on. These might be the aspects of writing that you struggle with. Examples could be grammar, consistency, tense, facts. You could have specific words you use too much and want to cut out. Get these things down and if you need to, do a specific read-through focusing on them before you look at everything all together.
Alongside these points, write down your time frame and other points you need to remember. Think about how you’re completing your actual edit and read-throughs—are you splitting everything up, or doing everything at once multiple times.
There’s your game plan. Let’s move on to step 2.

2nd editing step: Complete an in-depth read-through.

You’ve got your plan, the next thing to focus on is actually completing your read-through/s. This is when the editing magic happens! You want to make sure you’re hitting all the editing benchmarks—grammar, punctuation, and spelling; consistency, clarity, flow, and readability; fact and legality checks. Don’t forget to think about your formatting too! When I think about editing steps, this is the one you need to place the most amount of time and energy on. Give yourself plenty of time too. Edits aren’t something to rush, as that’s when errors get left.

3rd editing step: Compile supporting documents.

If you want to help your editing process further to not only boost your writing quality now but for future projects as well, having some supporting documents to utilise in the future can be sooo valuable. I’d recommend an overview document where you list down glaring issues you find, and notes on how the process goes. A consistency document, also known as a style sheet is essential.

4th editing step: Spend time applying edits and querying further.

Once you’ve actually done your read-through and placed your edits, it’s really important to spend time going through everything and making sure you’ve made the right call. You can look at the sentences that need improving and rewriting and complete that. Then, if you want to, you can even do another read-through and edit further. But don’t fall into the trap of not knowing when to stop. Editing can be tricky because you don’t want to go too far and change everything.

I hope these general editing steps will help guide you a little more in your own editing processes. They definitely will boost your writing further. If you ever need support from a copy editor, I provide a self-editing service, where you can come to me with all your questions and worries, and I can help you streamline your editing process. Or if you’d actually like a copy editor, please check out my services page.

Published by Amy Ollerton

Hi! I'm Amy—a professional copy editor and proofreader living in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. I provide friendly, personalised services that boost writing while retaining the author's unique style and voice. I write a little myself, shown through my blog. Alongside my work, I read books, enjoy baking, and explore the Highlands with my partner and my dog, Lula. If you've ever any editing queries, feel free to get in touch!

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