On your (editorial) mark, get set, go!

editing, editing marks, punctuation, grammar
Speed up your editing with these marks!

Many of us put on our “Editor hat” now and then, but few of us are professional, full-time editors. This guest post is from the two editing pros who make up Tandem Editing. They share their tips being efficient, effective editors.


Daylight Saving Time. One less hour (or so it seems) to get your words out the door. We’ve all been there—an hour away from deadline but not nearly done. We were delighted when Erica asked us to suggest a few editing tips for making the most of the time you have.


Editorial Triage

When you’re one hour away from Go, it’s time to focus your writing and editing on the absolute most important details:

  • Spell all names correctly—and the same way each time. Organization name. Program name. Executive director, board chair, major donors, foundation funders. No really, look them up. If there’s a single mistake you don’t want to make, this is it.
  • Give good directions. Verify every street, email, and website address in your copy. If you’re announcing an event, check the time and date info. Present? Accurate? Visible?
  • Double-check your facts: Don’t confuse your readers or make them doubt your research. Search all numbers, dollar amounts, years of past events, and make sure they present a consistent story.
  • Search for your personal list of most likely pitfalls. If you work for public health, pubicpublic safety, or public schools, make a note to do a find-and-replace. Don’t rely on autocorrect to save you. (It won’t.)
  • Take a look at “the look”—it’s too late to change your mind about fonts and colors, but does anything look weird? Is the logo at the top the most recent version?

Two Sets of Eyes

Your single best strategy is to find someone, or more than one someone, to be your second set of eyes. Print out several copies of your final text—ask one colleague to read only the names and another to read only the numbers. Print a copy at 75% and another at 200%—ask someone with a fresh set of eyes to scan it and circle anything that looks strange.

After you’ve entered all the changes (one by one, carefully), run one final spellcheck, take a deep breath, and Go.

The Calm After the Storm

Don’t let your editorial triage go to waste! After your deadline is met and your text is sent to print or posted online, make yourself a cheat sheet that includes verified names, addresses, and numbers for your organization and all its programs, plus your personal pitfalls list. This is the beginning of an editorial stylesheet, which can be an excellent resource for your organization. Here’s a link to a nifty template.

Connie Chaplan and Kyra Freestar are Tandem Editing LLC: One point of contact; two sets of eyes. Editing and consulting for the non-profit community. www.tandemediting.com


Photo credit: Ms. Daniel’s website for her 4th grade class at Lead Mine Elementary. Proving you’re never too young to start editing!

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?