Editing Rounds

I’ve got my own way of editing and I divide the process into 3 rounds.

In the first round, I print out whatever it is I’m asked to edit. I don’t know how some people do it, but editing off a screen is not for me. (If you do this though, I’d love to know any tips you might have.) Then, I read the text from a to z and note down all the positive points, as well as the sections that need some work done.

At this stage, I rarely adjust anything but instead I like to get an impression of the text.  Basically, if the overall impression is: ‘this needs a lot of adjustments for it to work’, then the chances of thoroughly editing it are close to nil. (Of course, as an editor, this isn’t always possible, in which case I take a deep breath and ready myself for round 2.)

In the second round, I pay attention to the content, focusing mainly on the development of the plot and on its credibility. I do the same for the characters: how they are introduced, how believable they are and what their motivations are for their actions. I look at the overall picture of the story and how well the mechanics are functioning.

In the third round, I focus on the voice and style of writing. The kind of language used, the word choices, metaphors and so forth all need to be adequate for the writing style and suitable for the story. Things like repetition of words or phrases and redundancies need to be eliminated. As a reader, these jar me and I start to question why I should continue reading… and I can’t imagine that’s what should happen. Of course, there are also the aspects of grammar and punctuation that I look at here as well.

These are the three rounds I focus on when editing through a text. I reckon there are many checklists editors can keep when editing. Personally, I find this website very helpful:


When I’m focusing on the language and style I find the following website very helpful (particularly the ‘Editing Checklist: Writing Style’ and the ‘description’):


If you have other links or tips feel free to share them.



18 thoughts on “Editing Rounds

  1. I find it very difficult to ‘see’ things that I have written. For step one I lay back in my chair and listen to the document using the reader in ‘word’. It brings up all sorts of things in spelling, puntuation and logic that I wouldn’t spot in a read through.

  2. Your paradigm sounds a great deal more productive than what I am doing each day; which is, of course, pretending that I am editor in addition to being a writer. It would have been quite helpful if those métiers rode tandem at all times. Sadly, they do not.

    Thanks for the editing advice,
    ~ Cara

    1. Hi Cara,
      I tried to do that too, but I realized that being a writer and an editor at the same time is not possible. At least not for me. I can read my own work but it takes a lot more time before I can edit it properly.

      There are a lot of check lists for editors on the internet but you need to find a way that works best. In the end, looking for spelling and grammatical mistakes just isn’t really my thing. I rather focus on plot and characters. 🙂 But it needs to be done too.


  3. I have to edit on paper too. My first round is big picture/gut reactions. My second round is looking at explaining my reactions articulately. My third round is balancing the feedback so there is enough positive to offset all the things that might need further work. 🙂 Then I type it all into the document in track changes. Then I pretend I’m reading those comments and soften them. 🙂

    1. Hi Kourtney,
      I tend to give them the heads up like this is my genuine opinion feel free to do with it what you like. I only tend to soften my comments to writers who are really new to writing. I don’t want to discourage them 🙂

      1. Hi Cecile,

        I tend to be very blunt when I self-edit, but hearing it from another person is harder so I try to get my point across in the most palatable way possible. I guess by soften I mean add another layer of tact to it. 🙂

        1. Hi Kourtney,

          I see. 🙂 I do keep in mind to stay as tactful as possible, but also as clear as possible. As for self-editing, I assign myself tasks that need to be done and looked into.

  4. I use a hard copy, too, and read the material twice. Once for spelling, punctuation, transposed letters or numbers. During the second time, check all the facts, look at the flow, etc.

  5. Great post! This is precisely how I teach my students how to READ, in a three-step process similar to your editing mehtod. I’ve observed that my Dutch students (ages 16-22) have very good verbal communications skills, many can even construct a halfway decent written sentence, but their reading skills are quite poor which is why I place a heavy emphasis on reading in my classes even though I teach professional English.

    1. Hi RM,
      This is how I was taught to read during my first year at the uni. Next thing was applying it to essays of other students etc.

      I remember from my teaching days that getting students (ages 12-18) to read was the main problem. But not just in English, rather reading in general. Then again, I remember that all the books I read during my school years were never just for fun, there was always some awful report that needed to be written about it. That did kill the joy of reading a bit.

  6. It’s great to have an organized system like this. I go over my own writing too many times really. For instance, I will do a once over combing the manuscript for anything that I might expect a character to say, and try to weed out the cliches that way.

    1. I’m the same way, Naomi! I go through many times looking for very specific things, and I find other issues along the way that trigger more rounds of editing. This three-round system sounds really useful.

      1. Hi Laura,
        In the end it’s about finding a way that works best. And experience in editing works too. And I’m still working on that 😉

    2. Hi Naomi, the system works as long as I keep to it, it works. But I do tend to do things simultaneously when I’m short in time. 🙂

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