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"Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing."
~ Joan Didion, in an interview for The Paris Review
As discussed in the introduction to this series on becoming a more effective self-editor, writing and editing are two distinct processes. You will be a better and faster writer if you treat them as such. Similarly, editing has two phases: the developmental edit and the substantive edit.
The developmental edit improves the structure and organization of a piece of writing. It focuses on the audience, clarifies the purpose of the piece, and makes sure it has a consistent tone and perspective. Before turning your attention to the substantive edit, make sure the structure is sound.
Use the CORD Framework™ to enhance the editorial quality of your article.
The CORD Framework serves as the foundation for much of the developmental edit and ensures the editorial quality of your work. Take a break after you finish writing to gain some perspective, and then read your article and ask yourself the following questions:
Review and improve the structure and organization of your article.
Once you've ensured the editorial quality of your article, it's time to improve its structure and organization. Read the article aloud to identify places where the rhythm, flow, or voice doesn't quite work. Mark the areas that need adjustment and then reread it, asking yourself the following questions:
It's not just about grammar and spelling.
Editing is about so much more than grammar and spelling. To be a good editor, you must start by looking at the big picture. You have to put yourself in the reader's shoes and make sure that it is clear and easy to follow. Only after the structure is sound can you focus on the details.
In the next installment of this series, we'll dive into the substantive edit. This line-by-line edit looks at grammar, punctuation, and spelling. It seeks out confusing, complicated, and wordy sentences and makes them clear and compelling. I'll give you a checklist you can use to make the process easier so you can become a better writer, a deeper thinker, and a clearer communicator.