Productivity is such a variable in editing. How fast you edit depends not only on your abilities and the state of the text but also on the type of content and medium you’re editing for. Think about it: website copy is written for a wider audience than a textbook. It’s less dense than a textbook and rarely uses footnotes. The denser the copy, the longer it takes to edit.
But measuring your productivity—your editing rate—can be very useful for proving your worth and estimating your workload. Freelancers in particular should know how much they can edit in, say, an hour or a day in order to schedule enough work to pay their bills. Too, if you’re looking down the barrel of an imminent deadline, knowing whether it’s even possible to edit a manuscript in the time allotted is crucial to meeting expectations and getting the job done.
What to Measure
Most editors measure words per hour or pages per hour. To me, words per hour just results in a large number I don’t know how to think about, but if it works for you, go for it. If you’re going to measure pages, you first have to define a page. Most copyeditors I know call 250 words a page (if you’re proofreading, this won’t work; track words instead).
Even if you’re measuring pages, though, you’ll have to know how many words you’re dealing with to come up with an accurate page count. The easiest way to count words is to let Microsoft Word do it for you. MS Word considers a collection of letters with a space before and after it (or just after it, if the word starts a paragraph) as one word; so even if you have coding at the beginning or end of a word, like <p>Even, it counts as just one word.
To find a file’s word count in the newest versions of Word, click on “Word Count” under the Review menu and use the “Words” number.
When I’m editing a PDF, I copy all the text and dump it into an empty Word file just to get the word count. It is quick and provides an accurate word count.
Don’t forget to measure different types of editing, however you differentiate it:
- Substantive editing, copyediting, proofreading, editorial proofreading, and so on.
- Light copyediting, medium copyediting, heavy copyediting
Also track your editing rate by topic or medium, if you do more than one. For example:
- Medical text
- Marketing pieces
Each type of editing and each topic will have a different pace. The more closely you can measure your editing rate, the more accurate your estimates—and bragging to the boss—will be.
How do you measure your editing pace? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Next week’s Tip of the week: how to measure your editing rate.
Read the whole series!