Editing Essentials

I've been an editor for over a decade, but I couldn't tell you what a dipthong is without resulting to google and my knowledge of predicates comes from Skee-Lo's version of The Tale of Mr. Morton. None of this worries me, because none of that grammar jargon matters to my authors or my readers or my authors' readers.

What does matter? Clarity and flow. When editing legal and other professional documents, I trend towards clarity. A document has clarity when it makes sense all the way through.


When I've got poetry or creative prose in front of me, I'm biased towards flow. A document has flow when you can read it from beginning to end without being tripped up in any way. Things that trip people up include:


  • when something doesn't make sense (or is just plain wrong),
  • when something is out of place (like a word that doesn't make sense with the document type),
  • when a sentence is badly constructed (passive construction when it's not warranted, sentence fragments, etc.), and
  • typos.


Both clarity and flow are essential qualities for any document that you want people to understand and to stick with all the way through.


Have a quick editing question? Want to hire me to do a piece of editing? Send me a message via my contact page.


Version #1


Once you know your demographic, write your content for it. Sometimes, that means exhaustively-edited, scintillating prose with a prodigious range of vocabulary to challenge your readers. At other times, that means miniscule words in micro sentences. I'd call that simple style "Hemingway-esque" for the former set of readers, and "easy reading" for the latter.


Novels, essays, and poetry benefit from, nay, require elegant variation and complexity of thought, but lists, articles, and instructions are the opposite. You may inspire the imagination with wild prose, but you reach the widest audiences when you can keep your words simple and precise.


Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 11



Version #2


Write for the people you are trying to reach. Sometimes that means getting fancy, and sometimes that means simple words and short sentences. The "short and simple" style is great for lists, articles, and instructions. Keep what you're writing to a fifth grade reading level. That way, a lot more people will be able to get what you're trying to say.


Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 5


Have a quick question about readability? Want to hire me to do a piece of editing? Send me a message via my contact page.