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How Heavily Do You Edit?

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2011 at 9:31 PM

To what extent do you edit your publication's features, and at what stage? Our anecdotal survey results are in.

By Denise Gable

Editors enhance articles or stories for publication by correcting, revising, or adapting them to their audience. They refine and polish each piece to their audience's expectations and make the stories better. The subject this month is how much editing is enough and when it should be done? The amount of editing varies from light "tweaking" to major rewriting. Our survey also asked where in the production process the editing is done -- early on in the manuscript stage or later at the page proofs stage?

Feedstuffs, The Weekly Newspaper for Agribusiness, The Miller Publishing Co.
Frequency: Weekly
Description: For over 80 years, Feedstuffs has been providing news, information and analysis on areas directly related to food production, including the related areas of feed manufacturing, animal health and nutrition, industry trends, feed ingredients, government regulations and marketing.

Kristin Bakker, editorial production manager: "We edit moderately to heavily. I proofread everything twice, and three sets of eyes typically read each story. Our final product is a printed edition, so the editing can be heavy depending on the space available.

"I would estimate that we edit 40 percent in manuscript form and 60 percent in page form. Every story first gets proofread before it is placed on the page and again after it is on the page. Since the final product is printed, the editing is weighted slightly more toward the page form to fit the copy in the allotted space."

Feldcomm, design/editorial/communications firm
Description: Feldcomm is a design communications company specializing in developing effective marketing for businesses, associations and professional services firms.

Joan Feldmann, editorial director and copublisher of Attorney at Work, "For traditional association magazines, articles are heavily edited (though most volunteer board members are in denial about that); 85 percent are edited in manuscript form (Word), 15 percent in page form (InDesign with PDF edits).

"For blog microsite publications, it's about 50-50 for heavily edited and moderately edited. Ninety-five percent of editing is done in page form (Wordpress) but some pieces are sent to editors who prefer to pull them into Word or even print them out and mark them up."

Official Board Markets, Questex Media Group, LLC
Frequency: Weekly
Description: The definitive newsletter for the recovered paper and board converting markets.

Mark Arzoumanian, editor in chief, "As editor of a weekly newsletter, I do a lot of rewriting versus editing of original material. That is the only way to go when you have a small staff and need to fill a weekly.

"When it comes to columns, I edit them lightly. The columnists that write for me are pretty good writers and enjoy writing, so I find that any editing I do for these is tweaking style and cutting a paragraph here or there to make the piece fit the page.

"I do not receive manuscripts by the mail anymore; it's all electronic. If I had to give you a percentage for light editing on columns/articles I would say 15 percent. With the print world shrinking as it is, poor writers just don't last because editors don't have the time to do a major edit."

West Virginia Executive, Executive Ink, LLC
Frequency: Quarterly
Description: West Virginia's premier statewide business publication.

Jennifer Jett Nugent, chief creative officer, "I would say that 75 to 80 percent of the time we edit heavily. The majority of our stories are written by 'experts' in the fields that we are covering, and they are typically not writers and not concerned with our style rules, et cetera. Once we get the story, we often have to heavily edit, reorganize, rewrite the whole thing or simply send it back and ask very nicely for them to try again. They often do not take into account that many of our readers are "laymen" when it comes to their professions.

"As far as editing in manuscript form, I would again say 80 percent of the editing is done this way. We get the story, edit it/mark it up for changes or suggestions, and send it back to the person. Unlike traditional journalism (e.g., newspapers), we have to have final approval from our writers on anything we change -- we don't want any surprises when the story comes out. Because of that, the story is usually fairly clean when it goes to production. We then print the magazine in its entirety three to five times and edit on spelling, grammar, style, and graphic layout."

Denise Gable is managing editor of Editors Only.

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