Basics of Editing for Content
Editing for content can be a tricky proposition. Writers tend to have a personal style that they have cultivated throughout the years and changing that style requires both a keen eye and a talent for revisions that comes from years of experience. Fortunately for young writers, there are a few simple techniques that are easy to use and can come in quite handy when you need to edit the content of a piece of writing.
Of course, the first thing that you should do is identify the central problem with the content of your writing. Is the vocabulary of your writing at too high a level for your audience? Are you slipping into an informal style too often? Are you using inappropriate language or concepts? Each of these problems requires a different focus. A good way to find the problem is to let someone else read your writing and offer suggestions. A professional editor or peer reviewer will be able to help you identify problems and give you a general sense of how to go about revising the content of your piece.
Once you have identified the problem, you can start revising the content of your piece with one of two useful revision techniques: substitution and deletion.
Editing with Substitution
With substitution, you identify the content that is inappropriate for your audience and replace it. For example:
The serendipitous nature of our reunion did not escape us.
If the word “serendipitous” was considered inappropriate, you would change it to:
The coincidental nature of our reunion did not escape us.
Editing with Deletion
Another useful technique is deletion, where you remove the content and replace it with implication. For example, if the description of a gruesome murder scene is considered inappropriate, you can replace it with something like:
The detective put her hand over her mouth as she saw the awful scene in the apartment. She had never seen anything like it before and had to struggle to keep from throwing up onto the floor.
Other than that, the final thing a writer should keep in mind about editing for content is that it’s often extremely subjective. Different people will have very different ideas concerning what is or is not appropriate and you can never make everyone happy. Keep your audience in mind, but don’t be afraid of them. Write what you want to write and things will work out for the best.
Next time, we’ll discuss some important people that every writer should have in their life: alpha and beta readers. Until then, stay safe and keep writing.
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