Have you ever read something and found yourself distracted by a misspelled word or a misplaced comma? One error can change your perception of the professionalism of the writing. Good copy editing would have made all the difference.
Copy editing is important when you’re producing any form of written communication, whether it’s a lengthy report or a short email. It’s a critical skill to master to ensure that your point is clearly communicated in your writing without distracting errors.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you seek to become a better copy editor:
- Read every word. The human brain often glosses over words when reading. When you’re editing, it’s different – you need to force yourself to read each word to make sure you catch all errors. Of course, it’s important to work quickly if you’re on a deadline, but don’t rush at the expense of quality.
- Brush up on grammar and punctuation rules. Make sure you understand proper grammar and punctuation, and review articles or books on the topic if you need a refresher.
- Ensure clarity. What you’re writing may make sense to you, but will it make sense to someone who is not as familiar with the topic? Avoid jargon, and make sure all sentences are clear and concise.
- Watch for consistency issues. Editing isn’t always a matter of right or wrong; in many cases it’s a matter of consistency. For example, in some instances, it may be debatable whether you capitalize a particular word or how to abbreviate something. The most important thing is to be consistent throughout the document.
- Follow proper writing style. In the communications world, AP style is commonly used. If your company uses this style, consider purchasing an online subscription to the AP Stylebook. Try to memorize the common rules and reference the guide as needed.
- Don’t trust spell check. Most of us know this, but it’s worth repeating – spell check is not going to catch everything, so make sure you’re watching out for spelling errors.
- Get a second set of eyes. If you’ve been working for a long time on a particular document, it’s a good idea to have someone else look at it, especially if it’s an important document. A fresh set of eyes may catch some things you glossed over. Afterward, look at what the other person marked – you may be able to learn from his or her insights.
- Train your eye. Becoming a good copy editor is like any skill – you have to practice it in order to perfect it. The more you practice, the more naturally it will come and the more you will find yourself noticing errors you might have overlooked in the past.
What tips or strategies do you have for being a better copy editor? Share them in the comments below, or tweet your responses to us using the hashtag #mcgblog.