Co-thinking and editing

I bring a fresh pair of eyes. Academics, policy analysts, engineers, efficiency experts — all benefit from having someone trumble through their drafts, asking the big-picture questions and the nitty-gritty ones, and wrangling paragraphs and sentences into a shape that reflects what the writer imagined was there.

I help writers to re-engineer their writing so that its conceptual foundations are clear, its logical structure is consistent, and its sentences and paragraphs flow seamlessly one to the next. My input helps writers give readers what they need, where they need it. I primarily do content editing: developmental evaluations and substantive editing.  (See my levels of editing page.)

Developmental evaluations

A developmental evaluation looks at the big picture — it’s the highest level at which my co-thinking comes in. It doesn’t involve the tweaking of any text; rather, it’s an up-close look at the document, culminating in an evaluation designed to jump-start a conversation between us or between you and your collaborators that explores a new vision of the document — its structure and focus, and how well it meets the needs of its readers. (See a longer description of developmental evaluations.)

Documents that are particularly good candidates for developmental evaluations are those that:

  • are conceptually innovative
  • have multiple authors
  • are reissued or reused on a regular basis, and the template-on-autopilot is ready to be re-examined

For you to reap the full benefits of a developmental evaluation, you’ll need to allow some time. I often do a developmental evaluation prior to one or more substantive edits or a full rewrite, and it can also stand alone.

Substantive editing

Substantive editing is what really brings a document into its own. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’ll lead you to a piece of writing that you’re proud to have your name on. A substantive edit is hands-on — I delve into the document’s structure and flow of logic and content, examining sections, paragraphs, and sentences to help to ensure that you’re serving your readers every step of the way. (See a longer description of substantive editing.)

Almost every document needs a substantive edit before being released into the world. A substantive edit takes your draft, representing tens or hundreds of hours of your time and your knowledge, skill, and experience, and generates a structure, argument, and rationale that immediately, effortlessly resonate with your target audience. It gives your writing focus, style, and shine.

Copy editing and proofreading

Copy editing is rules-based editing that ensures that your writing follows the rules of grammar, word usage, and punctuation. It issues no comment on your document’s structure, logic, and flow — either overall or at the critical level of paragraphs. A copy edit ensures consistent terminology and brings your work into compliance with a style guide or your organization’s style sheet. Heavy copy editing also revises sentences that, even though grammatically correct, are cumbersome. (See a longer description of copy editing.) Proofreading leaves all of the words on the page and is a check on spelling, punctuation, formatting, and anything else requiring absolute consistency.

I don’t generally do light copy editing or proofreading — although I will if you insist. In my experience, if a document has never met an editor (or a person with really good editing instincts), its chances of being free of structural/framing/argument issues are minute, and I’m not willing to let the bigger issues slide by under my watch. I do perform heavy copy editing when it’s in conjunction with a document that’s undergoing developmental and/or substantive work.

Questions? Send me an email.