Good editing should be invisible

One of the best comments I received from a client on a recent editing project for a technical manual was ‘Now I can read it!’.

When we talked about what she meant by this, she said that the previous draft had felt like hard work – she couldn’t navigate or tell where she was in the content, and she kept having to re-read sentences and paragraphs to discern their meaning.

Editing had made it easy to find what she needed. Most importantly, it allowed her to grasp the information with no ‘work’ on her part. She didn’t have to think about reading; she just read and understood.

That is really the goal of editing. It is not about following esoteric grammatical rules, but about making sure the information leaps straight from the page – whether printed or web – to the mind. Grammar and spelling, along with plain-English writing, copyediting and proofreading, are simply the tools we use to achieve this goal.

The end result should be readers who say not ‘the editing was great’ but ‘the information was so clear!’.