Content with the Technical: 3 Strategies for Line-by-Line Editing

(Photograph courtesy of Green Chameleon via Unsplash)

It’s a widely held misconception that strong writers are by default strong editors. This is simply not the case. In reality, a strong writer will make fewer mistakes and only create the appearance of a capable editor. It’d be wonderful if there was a 1:1 ratio for writing and editing skill improvements, but in fact we’ll need to learn and practice this with intention… just as we had to learn and practice everything else.

Let’s do that with a bit of direction! Here are 3 strategies for editing. The line-by-line approach!

3. Step Away:

Once we’ve finished an initial draft, the next step is to go through the document with line-by-line edits (huh, huh?), but before that starts— step away from the document for a few minutes, just a short break will suffice. We’ll just allow ourselves a few moments to clear the old noggin, consider stretching, answering a quick email, or any number of small, mundane tasks. Depending on the scope of the writing assignment, subject matter, and complexity of the information— this brief reprieve will make the difference between a successful process examination (like technical narratives and how-to guides) and another rewrite.

These quick mental break also offers the added benefit of changing our focus, we need to step out of the writing sphere and enter into the editing world. Focus and intention are major components for successful editing, just like successful writing!

2. Word Choice Preservation:

Most of the editing process can be reduced down to identifying the best word choices AND maintaining consistency throughout the entire document. It is quite easy to miss these opportunities if we are not specifically looking for them. This becomes increasingly important for short narratives and technical reports, where the reader can quickly identify inconsistencies in the text. 

For example, if we refer to a product as a “text box” it is in our best interest to continue that throughout the document. If we were to suddenly use the phrase the “search bar” to refer to the same product, our readers would likely have a momentarily pause, resulting in frustration at best and confusion at worst. 

Depending on the scope of the project, simple errors like these can make the difference between landing a new customer and not.

This consistency in word choice shouldn’t be confused with the benefits of word variation. Variation is more of an engagement tool, rather than a structural device, but don’t worry… we will discuss word variation in more detail next week.

1. Read Out Loud:

Reading our newly drafted content out loud is the absolute most valuable practice to get in the habit of doing with every new document. Writing, regardless of the topic, remains an incredibly personal experience, and with that experience comes a certain level of “closeness” to the actual work itself. This works against us when we are editing, namely as we read (quietly to ourselves) we are adding/removing words without noticing it because we KNOW what is supposed to be there. 

But as life will always teach us, what we KNOW and what IS are often different. 

Luckily, reading the words out loud will rectify this issue (for the most part) as long as we take our time to go through each word, line-by-line. Those missing connecting words (of, for, like, etc) as well as shifts in tense will become glaringly obvious, and we will be able to make these corrections straight away!

As we get closer and closer to our first goal of 100 followers (we are just over 60 at the time of writing this post), It is absolutely thrilling to see such growth and engaement!

So, if you are enjoying the content here, please consider leaving a like, commenting with your own insights, and following the blog for weekly updates

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Published by Jeffrey Graessley

Jeffrey Graessley is an R&D technical writer, poet and blogger (right here) @ Content with the Technical! Subscribe for weekly updates every Sunday morning!

6 thoughts on “Content with the Technical: 3 Strategies for Line-by-Line Editing

  1. I also agree about reading your material out loud – though I hate doing it! Another thing I found works to spot things I missed during editing is to change the font dramatically! So if you’ve got Times New Roman 12-pt font, switch to Arial 18-pt font (just for editing). This has helped me see things in a new way.

    Liked by 1 person

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