Becoming a Better Editor: Why Rewriting and Editing Are Not the Same

February 1, 2016

[vico collective/blend images/corbis]
[vico collective/blend images/corbis]

Good writing emerges from rewriting: trimming, shaping and polishing your draft to make it something you are happy with. But revising is not the same as editing; it is only part of the editing process.

When you revise your draft, you are in the role of the writer. You are immersed in your material and are thinking from a writer’s perspective: What details do I need to best communicate this point? How should I describe this to provide a clear picture for the reader? Can I tighten this sentence without changing the meaning? Have I made my point convincingly?

When you shift to editor mode, you make fewer changes to the text, because most of the changes should occur in the revising phase. As an editor, ask questions from the perspective of a reader who doesn’t have the writer’s insight: What does that mean? How is that related to the previous point? Will that make sense to a reader who is unfamiliar with the topic? Will that get by the legal department?

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