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If I Were Your Editor, I'd…

Posted on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 4:52 PM

My checklist of 13 points for editing your pieces. Try using it yourself!

By Peter P. Jacobi

If I were your editor -- aside from carefully copyreading your written submission to catch grammar, spelling, and punctuation problems along with obvious errors -- I would evaluate the work against a checklist of thirteen critically important points I’ve made in columns past.

Therefore, to head off a negative response from me, I’d urge you -- before turning in your material -- to test it first against this same list and make the changes deemed necessary. For you not to do so would represent, in my mind, a dereliction of duties (or, at least, your loss of an opportunity).

When tackling your manuscript, I would seek to determine whether or not you offered me the following.

#1 -- Anticipation

With an article that enhances the scope of coverage in your publication, this by providing something of a more timeless, lasting nature than the usual timely, print-now-or-never stories. Did you?

#2 -- Focus

Planning your article so that its approach matches reader interest, that its slant suits a particular audience and occasion, and, really, only that audience and occasion. Did you?

#3 -- Insight

Providing coverage that passes along to the reader material not available elsewhere because of the sources you’ve managed to exploit and the depth of information you’ve garnered through your research and reporting. Did you?

#4 -- Structure

Causing your facts, theme, and developments to bond so that the article unifies, makes sense, and moves ever forward. Did you?

#5 -- Context

Surrounding the critical details of your article with sufficient background, an environment that gives full meaning and import to the point you’re trying to get across. Did you?

#6 -- Perspective

Shaping a point of view, a means for the reader to understand a subject or an issue the way you want him or her to understand it. Did you?

#7 -- Epiphany

Seeking a “see the light” life changing moment for your central character because in such an event there’s drama or a lesson the reader can take away and perhaps use in his or her own life. Did you?

#8 -- Zoom

Locating a metaphoric situation that casts a spotlight on your entire subject, one that in compressive form clarifies everything you’re trying to say. Did you?

#9 -- Completeness

Providing all necessary information and shaping it in such a manner that the reader is satisfied with the provided substance and yet retains a curiosity for more. Did you?

#10 -- Reality, Spontaneity, and Visibility

Giving what you write a sense of presence, of creative spark, and of sensual power. Did you?

#11 -- Flow

Making your words an unbroken stream. Did you (read your manuscript aloud)?

#12 -- Resonance

Supplying the sort of substance and/or the sort of writing that reverberates in the reader’s mind and heart, that jars his or her sensibilities and, thereby, makes what you’ve prepared more likely become the stuff of memory. Did you?

#13 -- Voice

Individualizing your copy, making it yours, giving it a distinguishing personality that only you could have contributed because of who you are and how you practice the process of writing and in what manner you use the language. Did you?

The above words are significant. Your making them real in your writing is even more so. So, as you self-edit the piece you wrote this morning, judge yourself. Did you?

Peter P. Jacobi is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is a writing and editing consultant for numerous associations and magazines, speech coach, and workshop leader for various institutions and corporations. He can be reached at 812-334-0063.

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