We love analogies at Aurora Marketing. We have our cake baking analogy to describe the multi-step process of developing and writing content, and we have a wood working analogy to describe the multi-step process of editing.
What? Editing is a multi-step process?
Yes! Let us explain with a wonderfully simple wood working example.
Imagine this. You’re a carpenter and you’re making an oak coffee table. Being a perfectionist, you want to ensure it has the best possible finish, with no imperfections. Once you have constructed your table, it is time to finish the project, which means sanding, staining and polishing. To get the best result, you know that you need to start by sanding the wood with a fairly rough grit and continue sanding with progressively finer grains. The first sanding would be with a grit of 120 grain to remove the major flaws. The second sanding would be with a grit of around 150 grain to remove the coarse-grit scratches from the previous sanding. And the third sanding would be with a very fine grit of around 180 grain to remove any final imperfections. (Different types of wood require different levels of grit, but these are the recommended grains for oak.) Skipping a step leaves deep grooves that are hard to remove and ruin the end product. Regardless of how much experience a wood worker has, they can’t combine these steps or skip steps or take short-cuts. The work needs to be done in this order to get the desired outcome.
The process of editing is much the same. We start with a ‘coarse’ edit which looks for the big structural issues and continue progressively until we do the final polish.
Even when professional editors are editing books by professional authors, the process is similar. The first editing stage is the big-picture edit, where the overall structure of the manuscript is reshaped. (In our Aurora Marketing tender methodology, this is undertaken during our content development process.) The second editing stage is the paragraph-level edit, where the document content is made clearer and the flow is improved. The focus is on improving meaning by checking sentence structure, vocabulary and jargon. The third editing stage is the sentence-level edit, which checks grammar and consistency. And finally, the fourth editing stage is the word-level edit, where typos, repeated words, spelling, punctuation and format are all checked. And again, regardless of how much experience a professional editor has, they don’t combine these steps, skip steps or take short-cuts. The work needs to be done in this order to get the desired outcome.
While we’d love to be able to fast-track the editing process, and we all want to see a perfect document after one round of review, it’s a fact that quality work takes time.
So, if you are doing the editing yourself, here are our top tips for getting the job done right:
1. Allow enough time and review at least three times
Remember the wood worker using his progressively finer grain sandpapers… Proof your submission at least three times, progressively looking at the finer detail of the document. You can do these three reviews all in one sitting (like the wood worker doing it all in one afternoon), but you do need to follow through these three stages one at a time (like changing your sand paper after each review).
Firstly, start at the paragraph level and check if the document makes sense and flows well. Is the response clear, logical and easy to understand? Does it meet the page limit? Does it comply with any stipulations that have been made, like font size?
Read through again, focussing on the sentence level, and concentrate on grammar and consistency. Read aloud to check for grammar and rhythm. Check that terminology is consistent, that abbreviations and acronyms are defined and used consistently, and that all figures, tables and appendices are correctly numbered and referenced.
And finally, read through one more time, proofreading at the word level to check spelling, punctuation, typos and format. Read carefully to check for spelling, particularly for complex technical words. Run a spell check to make sure nothing slips through. Check punctuation, particularly on bullets and lists. Check that the format makes it easy to read, for instance that page breaks occur in the appropriate places, and margins and columns are consistent.
2. Take a break
Who can’t wait to proof a document they’ve spent days or even weeks writing? No? Didn’t think that was the case. The good news is that it’s actually very beneficial for you to give it a few days before you proof something you’ve just written. That way, we read what’s actually there rather than reading what we think we’ve written. So, take a break (and maybe have a KitKat!)
3. Seek a fresh pair of eyes
Two sets of eyes are definitely better than one and when proofing. A fresh pair of eyes can pick up mistakes that you’ve overlooked, and offer a different perspective on what you have written, allowing improvements to be made to the overall content and structure of the response.
4. Press print
It is a matter of preference, but almost every professional editor will say that they prefer to do their structural edits (paragraph level) and their final proofread (word edit) on printed hard copies, rather than on digital copies. For the structural edit, this is probably because it is easier to flick back and forth between different sections of the document, and to spread the pages across the table to see how the document flows. For the proofreading, perhaps it helps to look at the content in a new light, or with fresh eyes, but we seem to pick up more details in a hard copy.
And a final tip when using hard copies to edit: after you have done the edit and need to make the changes back in to the electronic version, highlight each markup on the paper as you go. This helps you keep track of what changes you have made so that you don’t miss anything and don’t get confused. This is particularly helpful if there are a lot of changes to be made.