When someone asks you to edit something – really edit it – they’re asking for more than just a check to ensure the punctuation is right.
Beyond making sure your grammar is sound, an editor should be making sure your thinking is sound. A good editor should be your toughest critic, your biggest fan and your smartest audience.
These are the questions to ask when taking a close look at a piece. Punctuation and AP Style are the least of it.
Does it make sense?
This is the most fundamental and critical role of an editor: Making the words make sense.
It might sound like an obvious thing that the writer already should have handled. But it’s very easy for a writer to get in the deep weeds and not realize that what they’ve written makes total sense in their head, but not on the page. It’s an editor’s job to come in with fresh eyes and really interrogate the piece.