In fact, this is a bit of a lie. I finished this editing job a few weeks ago, but there was so much going on, I didn’t get a chance to tell you about it until now. It was a copy edit for a company involved in the construction industry, who wanted the language in their technical documents to flow better and be more easily understood by a general audience.
How Copy-Editing Works
What is copy editing, you might ask? People often see editors as people who correct grammar and spelling, and copy editors do offer that service, but copy editing is a bit broader than that. It aims to improve the structure of sentences and the quality of the language used.
Sentence structure can be difficult for a lot of people, and copy editors aim to improve the structure of sentences so that they flow better and are easier to read. That’s why a copy edit was an ideal solution for this client, who wanted their documents to read well.
Consistency and Flow
Copy editing also helps to ensure consistency of language. There are often several correct ways to write a word, and copy editors will spot the version that the client uses most frequently and change any other versions of the word. For example, the client used fireplace and fire place in different parts of the document. I felt the text would flow better if the client used fireplace, so I changed any uses of fire place to fireplace.
Achieving this consistency can be quite a challenge. First, you have to make sure you spot every instance in which a different version of a word is used. The Find and Replace function is useful but has its limitations. Also, whenever you change a word or the way a sentence is written, you then may have to change other words and sentences around it, to ensure that the other sentences read just as well as the one you edited.
There are other small changes that copy editors make to improve the flow of documents, changes that are invisible to the naked eye, but that add to the impact of a document. First, I simply to trim the length of some of the sentences. Without the excess words, the meaning of the sentence became a lot clearer. It’s like clearing away weeds to let the flowers blossom.
I also discovered that the client used passive voice a lot in their documents. In passive voice, you emphasise the thing that is being done rather than the person doing it. For example, you might say that changes were made to the roof rather than that the builder made changes to the roof. For this client, I felt it would be better to use active voice, specifying that it was the client who made the changes. This would create a more dynamic effect on the reader.
I also did some proofreading of the document, correcting minor spelling and grammar errors and minor inconsistencies in layout. For example, some section headings had been highlighted in bold and some had not. I made sure that the section numbers followed in a logical sequence and that there was the same amount of space between each paragraph and each section heading.
The Final Editing Stages
When I had finished making all these changes, the document was covered in red track marks, to show where the changes had been made. I also added comment boxes with queries for the client to answer, so they could make changes themselves. I sent this to the client, so they could see what had been done. I also sent a document with the track marks accepted. This was a clean document, fully corrected and free of red track marks, that the client could then work on or add to as they wished.
In editing, you always have to be careful not to hack too much at the document, in case you take away from what the client is trying to say. It appears I achieved that goal, as the client said they were happy with the work. I found it a satisfying process too, knowing that my changes would help the client demonstrate the high quality of the work they were able to do for their own customers.
I offer a number of different editing services, and if you feel you’d like to make your business documents clearer and easier to read, click here.