The ‘recipe’ for successful editing

When it comes to editing or proofreading articles, press releases and so on, you might think that we would need to understand all the ‘ins and outs’ of the topic in question, but in fact the opposite can be true.

 

You could say that the skills needed are similar to those in cooking competitions such as Masterchef, where contestants are faced with a range of possibly unfamiliar ingredients and asked to make a great dish. Those who succeed do so not because they’ve used those ingredients before, but because they understand the basic food groups and tastes, and how they go together to make something amazing.

In our world, you don’t need to know the exact definitions of all the words, but you do need an in-depth understanding of English grammar and sentence structure, and how words fit together to make great copy.

And just as a good chef can come up with new combinations but still knows not to put strawberries with tuna, there is room for creativity in copywriting, but the basic rules still stand. Whatever the subject of your writing, a verb remains a verb, a noun is still a noun, and a long sentence is always difficult to read.

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Copy editing is usually done to support the understanding of readers who don’t have the technical expertise of the author. However, people with detailed knowledge often write for their own level of understanding, and it’s also possible to patronise readers by simplifying content more than necessary.

A good editor can recognise an article that is pitched above or below the level that will feel comfortable for the target audience, and edit the copy accordingly.

The benefit of not being an expert in the subject is that it’s impossible to make any assumptions about the meaning – our focus remains entirely on whether the copy makes sense intrinsically and is easy to read and understand.

So whatever your subject, if you want help to reach a wider audience, drop us an email. But please don’t ask us to make a quiche or anything – we’re not great cooks!