The basic editing checklist
Written by: Jessica Fritsche
Yesterday we talked about how improper use of words can degrade you’re credibility and your content. One invaluable tool can help you polish your content long before you ever send it into the design phase or post it online—the editing checklist.
Editing can be a daunting task. Even seasoned editors can miss certain things if they’ve been looking at a piece of content for too long. Using a checklist helps an editor focus on looking for one kind of mistake at a time, which helps avoid editing overload and ensures that errors are more easily identified and changed.
So what belongs on an editing checklist? There are some basic things that you should always look for, no matter what kind of copy you’re writing and editing.
- Spelling and Word Use – This might seem like a no-brainer, especially with spell check on almost every device we use. But checking copy for spelling is always my first pass, even though I’ve already sent my copy through Word’s spell check feature. Not only do I want to make sure that no spelling errors slipped through the cracks, but I want to make sure that there are no incorrectly used words in context of the copy. Spell check doesn’t understand context; it only understands typos. This is also the time you should look for any jargon in your copy that the layperson might not understand. Don’t write for the audience you want to read your content—write for the audience that is reading your content.
- Grammar, Sentence Structure, and Flow – Any editor is going to pore over copy looking for grammar goofs, but that doesn’t mean that you should leave it off your checklist. Looking for grammar or sentence structure issues helps tighten copy, increases clarity, and makes your writing flow. So why does that matter? You want your copy to be easy to read, following a narrative path that gets from point A to point Z in a logical fashion. Don’t make your audience have to re-read your content to grasp the full meaning due to grammatical miscues or weirdly written sentences.
- Punctuation – Are you using a semi-colon correctly? Do you have all your parentheses closed? Have you hyphenated a word that ends in –ly? (Better fix it! That’s a personal punctuation pet peeve.) Know the punctuation rules, love them, and live them in your copy. Punctuation errors can be the most glaring, especially when you’re misusing an apostrophe or put a question mark in the wrong place. If you’re not super familiar with the ins and outs of punctuation, a great resource is the Chicago Manual of Style.
These are just the basics of the editing checklist. Tomorrow, we’ll take a deeper dive into some more granular items you should consider adding to your editing checklist to help keep you honest as a writer and make your content truly great.
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