The art and science of editing

Editing is an art and a science

When do you keep using the same word and when do you use a synonym?

The science of editing

The science of editing is primarily about consistency. It is even better to be consistently wrong than to be sometimes right.

One place where editors need to be consistent is in terminology. However, editors need to keep a subtle balance between keeping a document consistent and stopping it from being boring.

Using the same word repeatedly is necessary in training and academic documents because, if the author keeps using alternative words or terms, trainees and readers lose the thread of their arguments. I spend more of my time taking extra terms out of a client’s work (to make it consistent) than adding them in (for variety).

However, sometimes I do use a synonym. That’s where the art of editing comes in. It is hard to explain – and confusing for my clients.

The art of editing

Sometimes I just feel the text needs to use another word for variety. I often link it to the original word in some way. If the client has too frequently used the word “characteristics”, I might say “characteristics (or traits)… Such traits…“.

But I must use the science of editing to think about it and be sure I am doing the right thing. I cannot change the terminology when the client is in the middle of making a point about it – but the new term can be the start of a new point.

I should be able to justify every change I make, if the client queries it. It is their work, not mine.

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