Definitions of Editorial Skills
Rather than reinventing the wheel by providing a lengthy list of skills, I thought that I would include a nod to the Editors' Association of Canada by providing a link to their comprehensive definitions of editorial skills. You can download a PDF copy of the list of editorial skills here.
The main ones that I use are the following (as excerpted from the EAC list, in no particular order):
Assessing and shaping draft material to improve its organization and content. Changes may be suggested to or drafted for the writer. Structural editing may include:
- revising, reordering, cutting, or expanding material
- writing original material
- determining whether permissions are necessary for third-party material
- recasting material that would be better presented in another form, or revising material for a different medium (such as revising print copy for web copy)
- clarifying plot, characterization, or thematic elements
Also known as substantive editing, manuscript editing, content editing, or developmental editing.
Editing to clarify meaning, ensure coherence and flow, and refine the language. It includes:
- eliminating jargon, clichés, and euphemisms
- establishing or maintaining the language level appropriate for the intended audience, medium, and purpose
- adjusting the length and structure of sentences and paragraphs
- establishing or maintaining tone, mood, style, and authorial voice or level of formality
Also known as line editing (which may also include copy editing).
Editing to ensure correctness, accuracy, consistency, and completeness. It includes:
- editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage
- checking for consistency and continuity of mechanics and facts, including anachronisms, character names, and relationships
- editing tables, figures, and lists
- notifying designers of any unusual production requirements
- developing a style sheet or following one that is provided
- correcting or querying general information that should be checked for accuracy
It may also include:
- marking levels of headings and the approximate placement of art
- Canadianizing or other localizing
- converting measurements
- providing or changing the system of citations
- editing indexes
- obtaining or listing permissions needed
- checking front matter, back matter, and cover copy
- checking web links
Note that "copy editing" is often loosely used to include stylistic editing, structural editing, fact checking, or proofreading. Editors Canada uses it only as defined above.
Examining material after layout or in its final format to correct errors in textual and visual elements. The material may be read in isolation or against a previous version. It includes checking for:
- adherence to design
- minor mechanical errors (such as spelling mistakes or deviations from style sheet)
- consistency and accuracy of elements in the material (such as cross-references, running heads, captions, web page heading tags, hyperlinks, and metadata)
It may also include:
- distinguishing between printer's, designer's, or programmer's errors and writer's or editor's alterations
- flagging or checking locations of art
- inserting page numbers or checking them against content and page references
Note that proofreading is checking a work after editing; it is not a substitute for editing.
Checking the accuracy of facts, citations, and quotes by referring to the writer's original sources or to other authoritative sources.
Also known as citation checking or reference checking.
Assessing the content and organization of a work, and commenting in depth on such factors as characterization, dialogue, setting, plot, structure, subject relevance, believability, research required, and potential legal issues. It also involves evaluating:
- technique and style
- reading level
- audience appropriateness
It may include providing detailed comments on the marketability of the work and suggesting ways to make it more marketable. This evaluation is intended to guide the writer or publisher through the process of rewriting or editing the work.
Also known as critiquing.