English Editing Tips and Techniques
Whether you are just starting out with English editing or have years of experience, editing can be a challenge. What should you look for when English editing? What choices are stylistic, and what choices are incorrect grammatically? What does it mean for a document to use a specific citation style? Do you need to worry about formatting? Will spell check do all the work for you? These are all questions you need to know the answer to if you are taking on the laborious task of English editing. Fortunately, we have some handy tips and useful techniques for you in this article that will make you a better editor and increase the quality of your work.
What is Editing in the English Language?
What is language editing? Precisely, language editing is the process of reviewing a written work to ensure that it is technically accurate and easy to understand. English editing is the editing of papers that are written in the English language. To edit English well, you will need to have a strong grasp of the fundamentals of written English, such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation. In addition, you will need to be aware of the distinction between different types of English and styles of writing. As the global language, English is actually a bit more flexible than many other languages in terms of what is “correct.” This is because it is spoken by so many people in different countries.
The English spoken by native English speakers varies between countries (the US vs. the UK vs. Canada, for example), and what is “right” in one country can be considered “wrong” in another. Most of us know that spelling varies between the US and the UK, but there are other differences as well. For example, in the US, we would say “in the hospital” while in the UK, “in hospital” is correct. While in Australia, you would “attend” the police station, in America, you would “visit” it. So we can see that English editing can, in fact, mean different things depending on who you are editing for and where you are located.
English Editing: Where Should We Begin?
When you sit down to edit a document, you cannot simply begin editing. There are some key pieces of information that you will need before you get started that will guide you during the English editing process. Whether you are editing your own paper or someone else’s, you must keep in mind:
- The citation style (APA, Chicago, MLA)
- The intended audience (who will read this paper?)
- Which style of English the paper is to be written in (UK or US)
The citation style that a paper is written in does not only determine the way that citations are made. It also determines the formatting of headings and references, punctuation, and capitalization. For example, in Chicago style, periods and commas precede quotation marks “like this,” while semicolons and colons are outside punctuation marks “like this”:. APA, on the other hand, instructs us that commas, periods, colons, and semicolons belong inside quotation marks. The style of English will determine spelling and punctuation rules as well when performing English editing. UK English makes liberal use of ‘single quotation marks,’ while American English uses them only within “double quotation marks.”
The intended audience of the paper will tell you how technical the language can be and dictate the level of formality. For example, a paper written for an academic journal will not need to explain well-known terms or abbreviations in the subject matter. It will use more formal English and tend towards objective language (minimal use of “I” or “we”). On the other hand, a blog entry aimed towards the general public should introduce any abbreviations before using them in the rest of the text. Any intellectual property lawyer knows that WIPO means the World Intellectual Property Office, but the general public may not. Likewise, a blog entry can be written in a conversational tone, and formality is probably not important.
How Can I Effectively Perform English Editing?
Every English editor will, over time, develop their own style and techniques. The most important aspect of any English editing style is consistency. The following are some quick tips for how to ensure that any paper you edit maintains a consistent style, technical accuracy, and proper formatting.
- When you receive a document, run a preliminary spell check. Make sure the language of the document is selected as UK, US, Australia, or whatever your target language is prior to running a spell check!
- Go through the document to fix the heading and subheading formatting before reading anything else. Bold, italicize, and number or remove numbers where appropriate.
- Check the paper for repetitive phrases, passive voice, and improper use of verb tenses (had gone vs. went, etc.). Change sentences into active voice whenever possible, and break overly long sentences up into shorter individual ones.
- Make sure the paper is technically accurate. Check for comma splices, correct usage of colons and semicolons, and correct pluralization.
- Read carefully to ensure that there are no typos, or spelling errors that spell check cannot catch (too instead of to, four instead of for)
- Utilize “find and replace all.” This tool is extremely useful for any editor. It can be used for punctuation as well as words, to fix capitalization problems, and even to replace whole phrases.
- Always give the paper a final read through to check for any errors you may have missed the first time around. You can do this in sections for long documents.
If you find editing your own English documents difficult, don’t worry. You aren’t alone, and that’s why there are a number of English editing services available online to help you. English editing services will do the work of checking your paper for technical accuracy, formatting, and style and consistency. English editing services can be particularly helpful for ESL writers. They employ native English editors who often have highly specialized subject-area expertise. This makes English editing services a great choice for ESL academics and researchers.