Keys to Effective Editing

L. Michelle BakerL. Michelle Baker, Ph.D.
441 Walina Street, Apt. 703
Honolulu, HI 96815
304 283 4573
Author: Writing in the Environmental Sciences: A Seven-Step Guide

Managers in conservation agencies wear lots of different hats. While “writing instructor” may not be at the top of that list, managers read and review long, technical documents written by their staff. Extensive editing is inefficient. A good manager will learn to delegate writing tasks by training his or her staff to do them consistently and well. Tools such as style guides, guidance documents, and templates can help (see below). Still, staff need a manager that can give them instruction, guidance, and feedback. This course adds a new skill to a leader’s repertoire – the ability to help their staff become efficient and effective writers.

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 would highly recommend the class to all staff and managers to write and review correspondence, reports, and other written work products. The class addresses topics we all deal with on a daily basis and provides a basis for establishing common ground for expectations and results for readers/editors and writers alike. Most of us are both and can benefit in both respects.

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