Between planning the writing books (one for college students, one for corporate folks) and writing up a new session for our Assuris training workshop next week, my brain is full of thoughts about revising and editing.

Skipping steps effects quality and effectiveness

I'm always surprised at how many people don't really revise -- they jump straight to editing. Or they confuse revising and editing so they don't do either particularly well. This is why I think writing's so hard for a lot of people. If I thought I had to be pretty well close to perfect in my prose write out of the gate, I'd be pretty stressed out, too. Similarly, if I thought I had to fix every single thing in one pass, that would make my brain freeze.

Writing is a process

In our shop, it's got five phases:

  1. Pre-writing/planning is where we do a lot of thinking about audience, purpose, main ideas and supporting details. It's a great place to get approvals, too.
  2. Drafting is the most under-used part of the process. When we draft here, we're just trying to get stuff on the page in a decent form. Though we want a draft to be a good as possible, the key is to create one as quickly as possible so there's something to work with.
  3. Revising is where stuff really starts to happen. We look at all the things we can do to make the writing better. Is the main idea clear enough? Do we have enough or too many details like stats, explanations or examples? Is the voice and word choice appropriate for the audience? Is the purpose clear? Are the parts in the right order? This is where we invest the most time in the process, working the copy to make it better. If we find conventions errors, we can fix them of course, but this isn't an editing pass. We're focused on bigger things here.
  4. Editing is where we get down to the brass tacks of checking usage, grammar and punctuation. We also look for errors in words, sentences and paragraphs. This is much more technical work than revising. This is where we make sure we've met any style requirements our clients have, too. We save editing for the very end of the process because revising often creates errors! Why set yourself up for additional cycles?
  5. Publishing, for us, is filing with the client. Once the writer has gone through steps one through four, and another team member has made a revision and editing pass, the work is ready for the client.

You may think this process slows things down. Au contraire! It actually speeds things up by helping us focus on the right things at the right time. Spend lots of time planning and revising, less time drafting and editing.

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