Posted June 16, 2020
Editing, revisions, and feedback are a critical part of a successful writing process. In fact, we argue that editing is where the real writing happens.
So, most business professionals will likely find themselves sometimes reviewing documents from colleagues and peers with the expectation of providing feedback or revisions. But this process can be just as challenging as writing the document yourself! The editor needs to be on top of their game just as much as the writer does. That can be made much easier by following just a few simple best practices.
1: Read the guidelines.Editors should understand the context in which the document is being produced and the specifications for it. Imagine reviewing an article intended for publication. Knowing the specified length is critical. Editing a document that’s half as long as required is very different from editing one that’s twice as wordy as it should be. Even in the absence of clear specifications, it’s good to know how and where the document will be used, and who will be reading it.
2: Know the goal.Every document has an objective. It may be to educate the audience, to generate sales, or to persuade someone to take a specific action. It's not possible to edit a document for maximum effectiveness if the reviewer doesn’t know the goal.
3: Be constructive.Remember, everyone involved in the process is trying to produce an effective document, so take a collaborative approach. That means recognizing the strengths of the document and praising the author’s good choices, as well as pointing out areas that could be improved. Further, recognize the difference between "I would prefer it to be written this way" and "It would be objectively better this way." Editing for personal voice and style is a waste of time.
4: Say no when appropriate.Sometimes, the best thing an editor and peer reviewer can do is … nothing. Decline the request. Perhaps there’s not enough time to do the project justice. Or the subject matter or the audience might be unfamiliar. If you have any concerns that you might not be the right person to read this document, consider saying no.
5: Be realistic.Perfection doesn’t exist, and professional documents are often subject to constraints that make it impossible to produce a perfect document. Too many stakeholders with editorial input will muddy the effort, and too little time or too little budget will make the document rushed. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
5: Get trainingWriting and editing ability are both founded on skills. Further, while the two practices incorporate some differences, both rest on an underlying understand of good writing. It’s not possible to edit or provide feedback if the editor don't know what a well-written document should read like. The single best tactic that an editor or peer reviewer can take to improve their editing and feedback skills is the same tactic that a writer can take to improve their writing: develop your skills through guided training.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations. Links: Internal