10 Top Tips for Editors

10 things that underlie good editing practice:

Correct English convention:

A good editor in South Africa knows that South African English relies primarily on British English convention. We have our own local flavour in South Africa but in matters of international practice, we rely on UK language practices. Similarly, a decent editor will be able to transfer the correct language convention appropriately when working with documents that require US language conventions.


Full stops, commas and all other manner of markers are corrected or inserted effectively by editors. This keeps sentence construction clear and your writing on track.


Editors check grammar for multiple reasons. Sentence length and sentence construction are important to keep the reader’s attention (parallel construction, restrictive clauses, correlative pairs, dangling participles, split infinitives, etc.). Language should make sense and not be distracting. Old English terms and phrases should be avoided.

Active voice:

Editors know the best placement of subject, verb and object in sentences. They know where authority lies and how to communicate messages clearly. More often than not, writing is better if it maintains the active voice.

Plain language:

Plain language principles make sure meaning is communicated clearly, quickly and easily. This is a must have and must do in most modern writing practices.   

Gender neutrality:

When writing is intended for all people, regardless of gender, it’s imperative to use gender neutral terms such as ‘they’ and ‘person’. It also makes information accessible to everyone without perpetuating stereotypes associated with male and female identities.

Anti-discriminatory language:

Language should be inclusive and complementary. If it’s necessary to refer to gender, race, ethnicity, faith or ability, for example, seek the correct terms. If these issues are of no relevance to the text, they should be omitted altogether.

Soft skills:

Editors should have confidence in their authors and authors should trust their editors. A good editor will communicate clearly and correction of writing and education will be offered in a manner that is respectful and engenders trust. The editor-author relationship should be defined well to keep all parties on the same page (pun intended).

A fair price:

The contentious issue of what to pay and what to charge can established by identifying who is doing what (editing skills, knowledge, expertise) and how much time is available before delivery. A reasonable balance between quality, time and rate keeps editors committed and authors satisfied.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD):

Language evolves over time and so does language practice. Editors should remain committed to best practice and ongoing developments in their fields of work.

Ten top tips, one for each finger. There’s no reason to let the quality of editing slack if one remains mindful of each of these points. Use it as a tool to educate others on the values that underlie the work of editors who are committed to their trade.


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