August 30, 2016

There is a Fine Edit between Good Content and Pristine Content

It’s a common aspiration today to be a good writer? But is just being “good” enough? Writing is all about striking a chord with the reader, and you need to be “damn good” to connect with your audience. To achieve this feat, it’s not only the writing that matters but also a core extensive edit that embellishes the content to attain perfection. Writing is unequivocally the hero, but editing and proofreading are the necessary sidekicks that add the quotient of success to your content.

Now editing requires a certain touch of proficiency and is simply not for the inexperienced. It takes years and years of practice to finetune your prowess as an established editor. Even with the experience, there are common oversights by editors that could damage content reputation. Following is a list comprising of six such common oversights, which if taken care of, could raise the bar of your editorial skills:-

Skip a Dip into the Topic

While you may be familiar with the topic, i.e., if you are the writer, it’s not the same when you edit for someone else. Many editors make a common mistake of editing content without first understanding the topic – assuming the writer has subsumed the requisite material. A little groundwork goes a long way in giving you (the editor) a clear and concise picture of the task at hand, along with the ability to make fresh editions/additions pertaining to the essentials and not just merely improvising on grammar. So give the reference material a thorough read and intuit the requirements before you commence with the editing.

Review the Edit? Why?

If writers are expected to review their content, so are the editors. This practice is not so common with hasty editors quite often skipping the revision of their own work. Are you sure that your edit did not change the meaning of a sentence or disrupt the flow of the article? You may have made changes to only a line, but at times, that line could be in continuity with the previous one. While editing, it is imperative not to disrupt the overall structure of the article. Hence once you are through with the edits, re-read the entire content. This allows you to identify whether your inputs complement the primary intention of the subject.

Jumbling the Tenses

Maintaining uniformity in content forms the crux of editing and proofreading. One of the common mistakes in this section is related to ignoring the tenses. Your article should be consistent with the flow of tenses throughout. Writers often make this mistake by commencing the article in the present tense – “Advertising on Google is one the best decisions you can make” only to switch over to the future tense – “With Google Advertising, your business could do wonders in this industry”. They miss their mark in maintaining the correct tense (which in the above case should be “can do” instead of “could do”). Therefore, as an editor, it is your duty to figure out the abrupt shift in these tenses and make the requisite rectifications.

I, You, They… Which One Is It?

Writers err in this arena as they drift in perspective along the length of the article. That’s where an editor’s role stands pivotal. As we spoke earlier about maintaining consistency, the manner to put forth a point of view should also be homogenous. Meaning, if you follow the second person approach (e.g. you, your), regulate the same for the entire article. You wouldn’t want to leave the readers baffled and wondering who was the “I” in the article then? Having said that, there can be a mix of perspectives, but only where it’s relevant.
The most common shift of pronouns is from third person pronouns like she, he, they, and it to second person pronouns like yours, you, your, etc. This impacts the constancy, making the content ambiguous.

Need A Break? Put A Comma

Commas play an important role in the framing of content. Neglecting or incorrect usage of the comma can change the meaning of the entire sentence. For e.g., the sentence “I love hunting, my wife and kids” could end up in a divorce if not for the comma. Apart from the meaning, inserting commas at the necessary pauses adds a touch of professionalism to the content. So as an editor, you need to scavenge the content and include these important punctuation beads at the right places. An interesting manner to do so would be to read the content out loud. The places where you subconsciously pause while reading must retain the essential commas.

Limiting Your Dictionary

No matter how beautifully you insert words into sentences, their repetition has a negative impact on the overall content (especially in succeeding lines). Let’s take the following example, “Social media has provided us with infinite opportunities to grow. It not only provides us with information, but also helps us connect with the rest of the world.”
If you notice, “provided” has been used consecutively in the two sentences. This is not grammatically wrong, however it does render the content a tad bit colloquial. A preferable version would be, “Social media has provided us with infinite opportunities to grow. Apart from imparting knowledge, it gives us a platform to connect with the rest of the world.” So as an editor, always keep a check for the repetitions and either replace it with their synonyms or rephrase sentences to eliminate the repetition.

With the importance that articles and blogs have garnered in the world of today, editing plays a role of crucial essence in enhancing the quality of content and probably taking it up a notch higher. For this, the editing needs to be as ruthless as it can until a certainty about providing the best reading experience to the readers is obtained.