Some editors simply turn down work if there’s no time (or money) to do their best work. Not everyone has that luxury. Me? I like to help clients as much as I can, if they’re making the effort to include editing. So, how can you do that without sacrificing your health (physical and mental) or working way past the time or money.
Triage: work first on what will get noticed most. This list is based on the advice of Eight-Step Editing creator Jim Taylor:
- indisputable typos: wrong word, misspellings, extra words (such as duplicates)
- flow of ideas (at paragraph level)
- topic sentences*
- tangled prose (and strings of long words and very long sentences)
- overinflated words
- meaningless phrases (a.k.a. throat clearing)
Each manuscript has its own strengths. You might start by fixing the indisputable typos, or you might skim the work and identify which of these problems is most noticeable and start there.
The thing that is hard for some of us to accept is that some of the things that drive us crazy aren’t noticed by anyone but other editors. Those are the kinds of changes you want to place last on the triage list. Then be sure to jot these down for your next collegial-debriefing session where you can get some much-needed sympathy from fellow editors.
*I hereby acknowledge that this style is frowned on in some circles. Know your “medium.”