Top 10 Editing Tricks of the Trade

This is my own personal list. Every editor has his own list, but the following are my tried
and true tricks of the trade.

1. Examine the paper’s general settings.

These are things such as page size, margins, spacing, font, font size, etc. Many of these items are so much easier to take care of first. Plus, if you have on Track Changes, changing some of these general settings for an entire paper will create a plethora of notations that will slow down your editing. 

2. Use Track Changes.

The aforementioned Track Changes (under the Tools drop down menu in Microsoft Word) is the most useful tool imaginable to communicate how much work the editor actually does throughout the editing process. Plus, it is perfect for the client who wants to manage every change. He can literally accept or reject each of your edits.

3. Spell check. Spell check. Spell check.

Why not use it before you jump into the read and knock out some of those troubling problems that Mr. Gates has helped alleviate? I commonly tell students that God created spell check on the 8th day (Bill Gates just borrowed the idea), so please use it! Spell check is commonly one of the first things and the very last thing I do when editing a paper.

4. Command-Z/Control-Z.

Mistakes happen. Sometimes you need an easy way to undo
the last mistake (or 15)! Control-Z on a PC and Command-Z on a Mac are the keystrokes
of note for undoing those mistakes (plus you can even redo an undo if necessary). Microsoft Word keeps tally of each change; you could literally undo every edit you made if necessary.

5. Carefully crafted comments.

Good editors leave helpful, instructive comments for writers that help them become better writers. In turn, that helps the editor in the long run have a higher quality manuscript to begin with. Most writers appreciate any comments you give.

6. Think encouragement.

Sometimes writers can love their writing so much that they get offended at critique. If you will encourage the author with your interactions and feedback, it will go a long way toward building a long-term relationship.

7. Put it aside for a day.


Having trouble? Sometimes you just need to step away from the material. A good night’s sleep, or even a day focused on something else, will help you read the material again with fresh eyes.

8. Find your muse.

Inspiration is not just for writers. I am inspired listening to music both as I write and edit (Ben Folds Five from my college days is playing right now). But maybe it is your location, frame of mind, favorite beverage, or the time of day that suits you best. Whatever works to aid your editing experience, go with it!

9. Beware the repagination.

When you get too many track changes in your editing, you might just experience the repaginating curse. Every few edits the entire document incredulously repaginates (it must know you have a deadline). If this happens, change the view you are editing the document with in Microsoft Word, and you will save lots of time and headaches along the way.

10. Clean it up.

Track changes are great, but I always send a clean copy of the paper for the client as well. While some clients want to review your work, others receive your edits and are ready to print and walk out the door with it for class.