Determining Your Required Edit

Speed. Quality. Cost. The key trifecta an overworked overwhelmed manager faces when putting a project together. Generally, the premise is that you can pick two options: if you quickly want high quality, it’s going to be expensive; quality at low cost is likely to be slow; and fast, low-cost work is probably not going to be high quality.

What does this mean for a busy manager, faced with project deadlines and tight finances?

As noted in a previous blog, there are three main levels of editing:

  • comprehensive editing
  • copyediting
  • proofreading

At a minimum, a quality copyeditor will ensure the document is mechanically correct (spelling, punctuation, and grammar) and stylistically consistent. For the busy manager, this level of editing assumes the core elements of the document are correct. In most cases, this level of editing is sufficient for standard documents. For example, if ABC Company is publishing internal documents or manuals—and have hired a quality technical writer—then there is likely no need to complete a deeper edit.

The issue arises when the intended document is to be read by external eyes. If ABC Company is publishing a report that is to be read by shareholders or stakeholders, then the document needs to be more than just ‘grammatically accurate’. This document now requires comprehensive editing. In this level of editing, the editor reviews both content (for completeness, accuracy, and appropriate language) and form (for organization, visual design, and usability).

For the manager, however, more time must be budgeted into the project to give the comprehensive editor time to complete their task, which may include multiple rounds of editing and discussions with subject matter experts (SMEs) before the document can be finalized.

Bringing us back to the speed-quality-cost trifecta, this level of editing is clearly going to be the most expensive, but will also result in the highest quality document.

In contrast, proofreading is the fastest and cheapest, as the focus at this point is to finalize the document and ensure the core suggested changes have been made to a document. The primary job of a proofreader is to compare the final version of a document with the marked-up version to make sure all corrections have been made and to remove any final typos.

Ideally, the handling of a document would proceed through the following steps:

  1. In a discussion with SMEs, content for the document is gathered and roughly organized.
  2. A draft is created, and SMEs confirm the logical order and ensure that relevant content is included.
  3. comprehensive editor now gets a chance to go through the document, focusing on standardizing structure and organization.
  4. A subsequent discussion with SMEs ensures all content is accurate.
  5. The copyeditor now goes through the style/format and language.
  6. SMEs again confirm the content.
  7. The final proofreader then makes sure all changes requested by SMEs and confirmation of content made by the editors above have been addressed.

We at Cohort Technical Communications, Inc. would be happy to assist you with your technical documentation and editing needs. If you belong to an organization that you feel would benefit from one of our services, contact us today at to setup a free, no-obligation quote.