To edit a document, whether it’s a single-page letter or a lengthy article, I try to read it, beginning to end. If I can keep reading all the way to the end without stopping, then the writer has done a pretty good job. If I can’t get through the first paragraph, well, the writer may need some help.Regardless, I skim to the end of the document. Then I go back to the beginning and start playing with the words.
When I edit the writing, I am not necessarily looking to cut. I edit the writing to:
- Omit needless words.
- Aid clarity.
- Vary language, so specific words are not used too often, such as twice in one sentence or paragraph, or in related headlines.
- Vary sentence length and punctuation to establish a conversational rhythm and flow to the writing, or vary the rhythm for effect.
- Ensure adequate transition from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, section to section.
- Capture and keep a reader’s attention.
- End on a definitive note.
Good editing should not change the original voice of the writing, just make it communicate better and more efficiently.