The editing protocol: Follow these 4 distinct steps

The author shares her method for improving copy from writers of varying skill.

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Through the years I’ve created a process that helps me edit on different levels. Editing to improve the structure of an article is different from editing for style and usage. Here’s a four-step method to my madness:

1. Read, and read only

This may seem obvious, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to read the article before making any changes. Keep your fingers off the keyboard (or put your pen down), and just read.

I know it’s tempting; you see a typo or a sentence that can be broken into two, and you want to change it immediately. Wait, though, until you’ve finished reading the article. You need to comprehend what you are reading without the distraction of catching errors or rewriting sentences.

2. Macro-editing

After reading the article, it’s time to focus on its content. This is “macro-editing,” a term I first heard when taking workshops from the American Medical Writers Association. Think of it as editing at the paragraph level.

Macro-editing deals with the article’s overall structure. For instance:

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