Keys to Effective Editing

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Like most good managers, you were probably promoted to your position because of your proficiency, but to quote Marshall Goldsmith, “what got you here won’t get you there.” Your agency has already trained you on some aspects of good management with courses like Stepping up to Leadership and Strategic Decision-Making.

However, as your field work has undoubtedly taught you, technical and regulatory reporting comprises a substantial share of your workload. Except now, instead of writing the documents, you’re editing them. And not only are you responsible for the quality of the finished content, you also have staff with KPIs to meet, and it’s your job to help foster them into clear, transparent writers. So in addition to all the new roles bestowed upon you, you’ve now become a copyeditor and a writing instructor, jobs for which you probably have not been trained.

As a writing instructor, you need to listen with your eyes so you can see in your staff’s writing the challenges they face. You need to give feedback in ways that are structured and mindful of the needs of the writer as well as those of the document. And you need to teach your staff the things they don’t know, whether about a document’s content, audience, and purpose, or about the mechanics of government writing.

As a copyeditor, you can use your time most efficiently by distinguishing between a substantive edit, a copyedit, and a proofread of each document. You can feel more confident in your work when you have style guides and usage manuals to answer common questions definitively. And you can master this new skill set when you begin to see editing as a body of knowledge with a set of best practices and communities for support and engagement.

“I am very glad I was able to take your course and have been adding some of your tools into my workflow already.” ~ Sarah Swenty, Sacramento, CA

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