Editing the Easy Way

You can edit your copy more effectively with the following 5 strategies. Your writing will be stronger and your copy more successful … leading to more controls and more profits.


    When setting a deadline with your client, allow 5 days for editing. If you don't have the luxury of 5 days, give yourself 3 extra days at the very least.

    This schedule allows you to put your copy away for 1 or 2 days – giving you a "break" from it before tackling the editing.


    Print out the copy for editing. You cannot see errors or copy problems on the monitor as easily as you can on the printed page.


    You have to do two distinct types of editing: copyediting and line editing.

    The copyediting makes sure you said what you wanted to say … in the strongest way possible.

    The line editing makes sure you've used the right words ("there/their/they're," for example) … that you haven't left out important words (such as "not," a mistake I make) … and that you haven't mixed up word order. This is also a good time to spell-check.

    I do both types of editing twice, in this order: copyediting – line editing – copyediting – line editing.


    My wife reads my copy out loud while I follow on another printout. If she stumbles or has problems with a word or phrase, that's a sure indicator that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.


    Master copywriter Mike Palmer recommended another valuable strategy at this year's Bootcamp. He gives his copy to several people and asks them to read it and identify any CUB spots: places where the copy is Confusing, Unbelievable, or Boring.

    (I mentioned this idea in Issue #299 of The Golden Thread, but misidentified the "U" in CUB as "Unclear.")

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Published: November 5, 2007

4 Responses to “Editing the Easy Way”

  1. How can I get help with my 17 year long journal. I had a daughter struggling with school early on, being a single mother made it worse for her and I. I decided to write down the events of each day.She is now 23 years old.I found a site I could save it in, then wrote a small excerp from the journal & a question for the public to read. Shockingly, I received over 70 responses to it with the first 48 hours, from professors to grade school kids.After getting some help with editing it's close to being finished, I am hoping to get some advice from the readers here on how to find a publisher/ghost writer

    Thank you, Robin

    Guest (Robin)

  2. Hi,Will

    A little friendly reminder...referring to your grammar in number 5, 'places where copy is Confusing, Unbelievable, or Boring'...the conjunction 'or' should be used in place of the last comma, not with it.

    [FROM WILL: Hello Maggie. This use of the comma with the coordinate conjunction 'or' is what's known as an Oxford comma. It is the source of controversy among grammarians. I use it because I was taught to do so 55 years ago by the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The idea is to follow every item in a list with a comma, even before the coordinating conjunction. Many people follow this style. And many don't. It boils down to matter of choice and consistency.]

    Guest (Maggie)

  3. Thanks for these valuable tips. I’m posting them in my office to follow for my writing, & client writing projects. In the 80’s I was a “Cub” reporter in college at “J School”, & my professors didn’t teach the “Oxford comma” - it apparently became popular while I chose a different career. I’m writing again, & it sticks out like a sore thumb! Resistance is futile, & the Oxford comma has won - I think it makes for better, clearer writing. Great article Will, interesting comments, & responses, too.

    June Frost

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