Substantive editing

With most documents, the first stage of editing is substantive editing (also known as ‘big picture editing’). Substantive editing involves:

  • restructuring paragraphs or sections as necessary, to create a clear document that flows logically.
  • removing repetition, and fixing common problems such as:
    • overuse of passive voice
    • long sentences
    • weak verbs and nouns
    • nonparallel structure
    • unnecessary use of complex words
    • overuse of jargon
  • checking and revising tables and figures
  • applying a consistent referencing style (modifying or creating an Endnote database if required)
  • identifying any inconsistencies in spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation and so on, and liaising with the client about any style decisions
  • determining whether permissions are required (e.g. for reproduction of figures)
  • adding comments wherever client feedback is needed
  • creating and updating tables of contents.

When editing, I track all changes, but I provide clients with two versions of the edited document: one with changes tracked, the other with changes accepted. Both versions include all the comments. For clarity, I also create a separate table of comments, with a column for the client to provide responses to the comments.

Hilary CadmanSubstantive editing