Every now and then, someone asks me if there is a method to my editing. Do I go from “big picture” to “minutia,” for example.
No. It’s not usually that orderly. There is a lot of art to editing. Especially at the start of a project, I just read it, changing or making notes as I go.
However, when I’m well into a project, the editing needs become clearer – the problem spots more apparent – or the elements to check get longer, out comes my checklist.*
Copy editing and proofreading are a lot more amenable to systems than structural editing is.
Below is my checklist from proofing pages on a recent project. (That means the final stages, with laid out pages, before it goes to print.) I do them in whatever order strikes me. When I get worn out, I shake it up by changing the order. I’m just that wild.
- changes implemented as marked
- inserts correct
- page heads
- page footers — sequential #, ISBN, section name
- title (front page and internal mentions)
- internal page refs
- internal names refs
- sequential numbering in all lists
- images — correct, full, legible
- chemical formulas — subscripts
- following paragraphs are indented
- chapter and activity names
- ph # — correct # of digits
When I first see pages all laid out, I also check
- first and last words of each paragraph
- images are picked up and placed correctly
When I am developing a manuscript with an author, the checklist is shorter and less detailed. The list below includes big picture elements that I consider as I work:
- goal of the piece or passage (in educational publishing, where I do most of my work, this means the learning outcomes)
- reading level
- word count (for copy fitting)
- voice (which should sound unified in multi-author projects)
- image possibilities
- technical terms and chemical names/formulas
- peoples’ names
- topic sentences
- and all that grammar and other editory stuff
What method to you use?
*Big nod to Craig Silverman of Regret the Error here, and also the Checklist Manifesto. Craig and Atul make a mean argument for the power of checklists in avoiding error. Basically, he justified my checklist obsession. I’m not crazy. I’m not! <check>
See the updated and expanded post about checklists, and in audio podcast form too.