Editing as decision-making: making thousands of decisions quickly and accurately

Editing is about making thousands of decisions about text – at the level of the character, word, sentence, paragraph and document – often all at the same time.

Editing decisions can be about spelling, punctuation, grammar, tone, word choice, expression, accuracy, clarity, format and presentation, and much more. Editors don’t just look at the word in front of them, but also have to be aware of and remember the rest of the document.

Editing is also about making decisions about numbers, claims and facts – does that sound right or does it need checking by the editor or client?

Every one of an editor’s thousands of decisions must be translated into action. In some cases, the editor implements a decision with just one keystroke, perhaps adding or deleting a character. In other cases, the editor may highlight a choice for the writer to make, or simply draw attention to something that may need further checking or thought. Editors often type comments such as “Do you mean X or do you mean Y?”

Some editing decisions are about right and wrong, and some are about improvements. Accurate and quick decision-making takes skill, experience and judgement. Professional editors who edit all the time can make editing decisions efficiently.

This explains why professional editors will always want to see a piece of work before quoting to understand the level of decision-making involved, and therefore the effort and time required.

See related blogs:

For advice on editing and decision-making, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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