Five different kinds of editing

I’ve been editing things for a very long time now, and long ago stopped thinking consciously about any of it.

But an upcoming workshop I will be offering at Cape Town’s Bergvliet High School on how to edit your own writing meant that I had to go back to basics and deconstruct a little.

It occurred to me that the list I made for that workshop, looking at what I see as the different kinds of editing might be useful to writers and people who are starting out as editors, so here it is (with examples where needed):

Proofreading – correcting basic errors like spelling, grammar, formatting and applying house style

EXAMPLE

This sentence has a grammar mistake:

Other musicians followed, though their music didn’t reach as bigger an audience as they would have liked.

Corrected to:

Other musicians followed, though their music didn’t reach as big an audience as they would have liked.

Copy editing – can include proof-reading but also looks at logic, consistency, flow, facts, structure and fairness

EXAMPLE
On Monday, there was a sigh of relief for Tanzania as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF released statistics showing that nearly one in 10 infants globally did not receive any vaccines in 2016.

Tanzania has fared well in Africa, and globally, according to Dr Bhavin Jani, a Surveillance Officer for Vaccine and Preventable Diseases at the WHO country’s office.
The first paragraph makes it sound as though Tanzania is happy that infants did not receive vaccines, which is contradicted by the second paragraph.

My rewrite:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF on Monday released statistics showing that nearly one in 10 infants globally did not receive any vaccines in 2016.

Tanzania, however, has fared well in Africa, and globally, according to Dr Bhavin Jani, a Surveillance Officer for Vaccine and Preventable Diseases at WHO country’s office.

Page editing  – headlines, cutting to length

This applies to print newspaper editing… sub-editors writes headlines, select pull-quotes, place pictures and cut stories to fit their boxes on a page. (As part of their job, they will usually also be doing all the kinds of editing mentioned above).

Curation – here an editor scans a wide variety of different kinds of content and decides which to publish and which not). This is not strictly editing, but a close cousin. In newspaper jargon it is called copytasting and it means scanning available content to see which articles should be used and which should not. So a copytaster might look at these three world stories and make the following decisions:

1. 12000 evacuated after wildfire on France’s Mediterranean coast

2. France wildfires see 10000 holidaymakers evacuated from Riviera campsites and resorts

3. Rabbits bunny hop on sheep to flee flood

A copytaster would scan these and make a selection, probably along these lines: My publication will use story 2 because it has the word holidaymakers in it (and thus indicates more possible relevance to a non-European audience than story 1 does). And I will use story 3 because who could resist it?

High-level editing

Examples here are commissioning editors at a publisher, or editors of publications. They may do all of the things listed above, depending on how hands-on they are, or they may delegate. Critically they usually carry the legal responsibility for what is carried in the publication. And they are very different from sub-editors (called copy editors in the United States, as I understand things). These people are much lower down the ranks, doing all the proof-reading, page layout and copytasting.

* Note that editors are called different things in different countries, and experts in the field might divide it up differently from the way I have done.

Comments are closed