Editing our own writing may not be easy, but it is generally a walk in the park sipping an iced latte compared to the difficulty of editing another person’s writing, particularly if that person is a coworker, friend, or relative. Here are six tips to take the sting out of editing other people’s writing.
1. Ask the writer what he or she expects from you.
- Should you offer constructive criticism on content, tone, or style?
- Should you limit your edit to grammatical errors and typos?
- Do you need to analyze the layout, graphics, or other aesthetics?
2. Agree upon the details.
- What is the method of editing (i.e., print versus digital)?
- How many rounds of editing does the writer expect?
- What is the time frame for each round of editing?
3. Notify the writer of every edit.
Use handwritten marks, strikethroughs (e.g., your you’re), or digital editing tools (e.g., Microsoft Word Track Changes) to let the writer know about every change or edit—no matter how small. Undocumented edits can cause many unforeseen problems.
4. Buffer concerns with gentle suggestions or questions.
- “This sentence may confuse readers. Consider rephrasing this to say…”
- “The language here may be a bit harsh. How about…?”
- “The description on this page doesn’t match the description on the previous page. Could this be an oversight?”
5. Provide straightforward grammatical edits.
Extra comments, such as “This is misspelled” or “This is wrong,” will probably put the writer on the defensive; instead, verbally offer to explain any changes that the writer doesn’t understand.
- Their There were a lot of people at Lollapalooza this year!
- The little girl sent a birthday card to her Grandma grandma.
- My friend and me I went to the new outlet mall.
6. Suggest a professional editor for work-related material or creative content meant for publication.
Not only do professional editors provide grammatical know-how, but we can also offer advice and opinions without emotional attachment.
Looking for more editing advice? Here are my past editing posts, just in case you missed them:
Editing Tips for Very Short Documents
Five Editing Tips and the Document Death Spiral