Monday, March 16, 2020

Understanding the Different Levels of Editing


Different Types of Editing

When you're self-editing your own work it can be difficult to know which editing process you should be using.  When you've mastered which editing technique that is, then you can start the correct steps  of editing your work like a pro, and take your writing from good to great. 

In order to help you with the self-editing process we're going to look at the various levels of editing to help you understand what is required from each.

What is an Editor?

What is the job of an editor of a big magazine, like Time magazine? 

These editors are the capstone of all major newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses.  They make the big decision on what should be published in their magazine, how many words the article should have, and also help to shape and form an author's book.  Writers are commissioned to submit new stories for future issues on various topics that highlight particular themes and viewpoints.  A well-known publishing house, such as Simon and Schuster may be suggesting new edits for Stephen King's new book, or debating his upcoming book signing schedule. 

You may have seen editors depicted on the big screen, for example, Perry White, editor-in-chief at the Daily Planet, the fictional newspaper that Clark Kent works at.  Or Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief, played effortlessly by Meryl Streep.

That could be you one day when you become hugely successful as a writer.

What is Developmental Editing?

Many writers like to call this structural or content editing.  You may use a developmental editor at the outline stage of your writing.  They will help you plan the material you want to write about.  If your manuscript has already been written they will assist you in the sequencing of chapters and sections, the order of topics in each chapter or section, and also help you to change from one part to another.  They may also make suggestions about adding or taking away from your content.  Overall developmental editing is about altering the tone, structure, and content to optimise the appeal of the finished manuscript, and make it more appealing to your audience.

What is Line Editing?

When you have made sufficient revisions, and the writing is to your own satisfaction, this is when you're ready to start line editing.  Line editing relates to the flow of your text.  This often involves rewrites or removal of sentences and paragraphs.  The main point of line editing is to make sure the document you're writing makes sense, and to curtail wordiness, but demystify any ambiguity.  As a line editor your job is to think about your use of language, and how you want the reader to react.

What is Copyediting?

Copyediting is the process of searching for errors at the technical level.

A copyeditor will:
  • Rectify punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
  • Amend word forms (e.g. act, action, active).
  • Look-out for congruity in hyphenation, spelling, use of numbers, font, line, capitalization and paragraph spacing.
  • Address formatting (making sure headings are always capitalised, and line spacing and fonts are consistent).
  • Making sure that the above points observe your style guidelines.
Copyediting can be challenging because you're constantly thinking about the context, while your brain is focusing on what is actually on the page.  Unfortunately your brain only sees what it thinks should be there.  Don't despair, there are tools that can be used to help you with this.

What is a Proofreader?

Proofreading is a field of expertise that should be highly appreciated.  Proofing, or proofreading is the skill of going through all content with a fine-tooth-comb, looking-out for any inconsistencies or errors within the text.  Proofreading isn't done until the line edit and copyedit have been completed.  A skilful proofreader will scan the document for any mistakes, this may include spelling, punctuation or errors.  A proofreader will also look out for other details in the text such as point size, font, line spacing, heading styles, or issues with formatting.  During the copyedit phase you make sure all of those elements are in order.  At this stage you ensure you haven't missed anything.

How to Ensure Consistency in Your Writing

Invariably many of the terms mentioned can become blurred, the lines between revision and line editing can become really fuzzy.  Often someone might include line editing and proofediting when they talk about content editing.  At the end of the day whatever terms used must be made clear. 

For copyeditors everywhere, the rule of thumb is consistency.  An example of this would be if you were capitalising General Manager, this would be capitalised throughout the whole document unless you had reason not to.  Believe it or not the human brain works on the predictive principle, a bit like your mobile phone which uses predictive text when you text message a friend, or write an email to a colleague.  This means that both your mobile phone and brain are making statistical predictions.  A well-known fact within the psychological community for one word to follow another.  Common words such as is are used at the start of a sentence, your brain will forecast the next word to be an adjective or noun.  The brain works extra time for any new information that is contrary to the highest probability that it may be data.

Contextual Errors

Often the hardest errors to catch are those missed simply because they were written in the wrong context.  If like me you're a touch typist these typos can be easily missed because i and o sit next to each other on the keyboard.  Making it easy to key if instead of of.  When you're making lots of revisions, you'll discover leftover sentences, and all kinds of bits that you may have missed during the editing process.

Unfortunately tools such as Grammarly, or PerfectIt won't tell you when you're using words in the wrong context.  There is a little trick you can use in document programmes such as MS Word or Google Docs.  If you use find (Ctrl + f) and look for the word you want to correct.  You'll immediately be offered all of the words you're looking for within the document.  All you need to do is replace the word with the correct one, to correct the mistake.

Simple things to remember:

There are four levels of editing:
  • Developmental editing
  • Line editing
  • copyediting
  • Proofreading
Editing can be ambiguous at the best of times.

The rule of thumb of editing is consistency.

You don't have to be an amateur editor to miss something, even the professionals have a bad day every now and again.
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