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Peer Editing: 3-point Editing Strategy

Professional writers have to edit documents quickly and efficiently. This is one strategy for on-the-job editing that separates proofreading into three different levels so that you aren't trying to edit for content, organization, and surface errors all at the same time. It also gives you a way to organize your feedback for authors. 

Step One 

Read to identify the main idea and key points. What is the action request? What are the critical pieces of information that your reader needs to know in order to act or understand important facts? Write them down. Are they clear? Are they parallel? Could they be more concise? Is the title or subject line sufficiently informative now that you know what the overall message is?

Step Two 

Now that you know what the main idea is and what the key points are, how is it organized? Is this the most logical or efficient organizational strategy considering the audience, purpose, occasion, and content? Is it easy to skim? Is the action request located where readers expect to find it? Is there a more economical or effective way to order this information?

Step Three

Now that the content and organization are cleaned up, you can go word by word and line by line to check for typos, grammar mistakes, mechanics, and tone (is it appropriate for the relationship between the author and reader?). 

When you do your peer editing: Turn the paper over, write your name at the top, and divide the page into three spaces with two horizontal lines. Number them 1, 2, and 3.


In the first one list the main idea and key points. Can you identify the action request? Can the main points be clearer? Give suggestions for how to make this more transparent.


In the second one, make observations about the current organization; is it chronological, most-to-least important, specific to general, can't tell? What organizational strategy might be more effective?


In the third, consider the tone of the document. Does it accurately represent the voice of the organization, brand, or individual? Is it respectful? Does it deal calmly with bad news? Is it the kind of tone your boss would be comfortable having passed around the internet as an example of the kind of work that your organization does?


Finally, turn the paper back over and go through the paper line by line. Copy edit for spelling, grammar, and mechanics. 

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