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Knowing When You've Done Enough Editing

  • By Robert Starr
  • Published 07/3/2008
  • Writing

There’s an old axiom that holds true no matter if you’re editing a text that you wrote yourself or the words of another and that’s that the more you work on the piece, the less you’re going to be able to judge how well it comes across. There will always be something that you’ll miss regardless of the number of passes through that you make, so it’s a good rule of thumb to keep the number of edits to a minimum. Many of the best people who call themselves a text editor and are working today keep an eye on their deadlines so they stay focused.

The most experienced online text editor will also tell you that there are several big differences between editing a manuscript that you wrote yourself as opposed to working on another’s text and the biggest one is the lack of perspective that you have about your own work. Think about it. You’ve spent hours, maybe days, and months or in the case of a novel even years writing and revising and in all that time you’ve become so close to the material your judgment about it is sure to be have become clouded. On the other hand, when it’s someone else’s work that you’ve been assigned to edit, it’s a good bet that the writer w

ill be at least somewhat sensitive to changes. Remember too that editing isn’t a group activity and most accomplished text editor will want to decide for themselves how many times they will actually edit a document. The more accomplished of these professionals usually base their decisions on three factors. The shape of the existing document is the first of these . Often a manuscript will need to be worked on in stages as there will be too much to accomplish in one pass. The complexity of the document also matters. Fiction, for example, will need to have overall readability and tone considered as well as the standards of punctuation and grammar, while the standard press release for business is a much more straightforward affair. The length of the text is the most obvious. The longer the document, the more there is to edit and consider. An eighty page doctoral thesis will dictate that the editor have more balls in the air than a two page business speech.

An online text editor usually chooses the order their edits are done in. It’s good to remember that because certain things are linked, they can be edited together. That usually means that brevity, tone, and clarity can be worked on at the same time.


Robert Starr is a professional writer/editor with several published books and a degree in journalism. He’s brought 20 years of experience in the craft to his own online writing/editing service. You can reach him at robstarr

by Robert Starr



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