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)
Revision? How much?
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