Editing for Beginners

Hey, You There

There are many ways to get on an editor’s bad side. I’ve seen my share of writers not following the rules and just tossing their paper to me expecting perfection. I’m here to tell you that’s definitely a sure way to get a re-write. If you want perfection then give me a story that’s perfect. Don’t worry. I’m not going to just leave you hanging. I’m going to lead you through the process so that way you and your editor aren’t at each others throats when you’re turning your work in.

STYLE BOOKS

Your best friend for the rest of your writing career in journalism is a style book. This handy book is what every magazine and newspaper uses to be consistent in their writing. There are usually two of these bad boys that you’ll have to deal with. The first one is going to be your closest friend. It’s the style book that your magazine or newspaper is going to want you to use.

This is the one you should always look at first. This is the style that your lovely copy editor will be looking for. Almost any problem you see that an editor complains about is from the simple fact that someone forgot to check the style book. And it’s not as hard as you think.

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How To Use It

To navigate a style book is easy. Say you write the word “around” when referring to a set of numbers. If you are unsure about if that is the right term — which it’s not — you would open your style book and look for “around.” See, how hard was that? Is it there? If not keep looking. There is more than one section it could be under. Now that you’ve found the correct term change it — the correct term is “about” because around is for area and space.

Now lets assume you didn’t find what you were looking for in your magazine or newspaper’s style book. Then you go to the big boys. These are usually an Associated Press Style book, The Chicago Manual of Style, or the MLA Style Manual. Each has different answers to your style questions. My answers are more related to the Associated Press Style book because that’s what my magazine uses. But that still doesn’t change anything. Simply follow the steps you used in your style book.

Look At You

As you can see editing your own work isn’t that hard. This is just the first step for sure but a helpful one. Just checking for style alone will save me time and allow me time to make you look good. And that’s what you want. Right? By you looking good the magazine or newspaper looks good. It’s a win-win situation. So help us editors out and take these steps. We are here to help you become a better writer and I’m sure you want to be better.

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