Editing English texts for consistency and style

Just as being a translator requires more than fluency in different languages, so editing is not merely fixing spelling mistakes and adjusting commas. Our professions share much, from a deep sensitivity to language to the skill of fostering a writer’s voice. This presentation is a guide to professional editing, highlighting ways to enhance and enliven texts.

We will consider the audience and purpose of a piece of writing and their implications for the variety of English, the level of formality and the degree of literary licence. We also identify levels of edit – structural, copyediting and proofreading – and look at how these sometimes sequential and frequently overlapping approaches apply to different genres across fiction and non-fiction.

One useful technique is the style sheet editors develop to ensure internal consistency. In the absence of a preferred style, editors may opt to follow a major style guide. Technology is another boon. Consistency software and macros improve efficiency while leaving more time to concentrate on the niceties of writing style. Finally, we look at common flaws in manuscripts and editorial approaches to improve the final version, adding a level of sophistication and suaveness.