Developing an editing plan

The preliminary work pays rich dividends

Unless someone has just walked in your door and handed you a few pages to “look over” (which also happens), you should get into the habit of doing some preliminary investigating and evaluating before you sit down to edit. 

You’ll find that establishing parameters and getting team agreement early in the project is helpful to all, particularly with long and complex documents. But even when the document is relatively short, take the time to do a quick assessment of it. Determining strategies before you begin helps to keep you on track and give you focus.

1. Evaluate the context of the editing project

  • Get document stats (page count, level of edit, due date)

  • Ask about project schedule and constraints

  • Gather document history

2. Assess the document itself

  • Review from macro to micro, from fundamentals to finer issues

    • Examine overall structure and organization first

    • Then consider paragraphs and sentences

  • Read for . . .

    • Attention to audience need

    • Attention to purpose

    • Attention to subject

    • Writer strengths and weaknesses

  • How well does the document measure up on each of these counts? What works? What doesn’t? Why?

  • Based on document strengths and weaknesses, determine the level of edit

  • Devise some preliminary strategies to address deficiencies

  • Revisit the project schedule and constraints: are you able to do what you'd like to do in the time allotted?

3. Develop a plan

  • Specify editing goals (strategies)

    • Reorganizing? Restructuring?

    • Revision? How much?

    • Line editing?

    • Copyediting?

    • Addition of any special features?

    • Addition of any art?

  • Specify how many drafts you’d like (ideally) to see

  • Identify possible timelines

  • If there are project constraints, determine a possible subset of editing strategies, a practical number of drafts, workable timelines

4. Meet with the writer

  • Introduce yourself if you’ve not worked with this writer before

  • Clarify that the two of you share the same goals

  • Get agreement on/approval of assessment of the document, its strengths and weaknesses, and your proposed editing strategies

  • Get agreement on what can be done within the timeframe of the project

  • Sketch out an editing schedule between you

5. Meet with the project coordinator

Meet with the project lead or other project coordinator, if necessary, to explain your preliminary assessment and the timeframes involved. Depending upon the situation, you may also be explaining your role.


Developing an editing process
UCSC Extension
First taught October 1996