Five vital benefits of editing

Here are five things good editing can help you to do. Tony Spencer-Smith
Tony Spencer-Smith


Many people find editing tedious. They have poured their thoughts into the first draft — why should they then spend time on pedantic tinkering?

In fact, editing is fundamental to good writing. No-one is capable of writing flawlessly; trying to be perfect the first time round is a recipe for inhibiting your own creativity in the fruitless pursuit of instant perfection.

Here are five things good editing can help you to do.

Get your thinking straight. Good writing means presenting your material in a logical order and sticking to your theme. The editing process can show you where your thinking is flawed and where you have included material that is irrelevant or left out something important. It gives you a chance to move chunks of copy around until it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Hit the right tone. How you say something is just as important as what you say. That means making word and style choices that suit the purpose of what you are writing and the audience for whom it is intended. For instance, humour can work very well in a speech, but is hardly suitable for a serious report. You also need to decide things such as how formal or informal the tone needs to be and whether jargon will be understood or resented. Editing will help you get those choices right.

Eradicate the dead wood. Words can behave a bit like weeds, that is, multiply excessively. We’re talking here about redundant phrases, tautology, circumlocution – lots of terms for the same thing: using more words than necessary to say something. Few in number (few), estimated at about (estimated at) and on a regular basis (regularly) are some examples of this careless verbosity.

Eliminating embarrassing errors. Nothing is more disruptive to the reader than bad grammar, incorrect punctuation or wrong words. In a worst-case scenario, the only message that will get through is that you have an untidy mind. Editing is the chance to eliminate these road blockages to meaning.

Lubricate your sentences. Good sentences need to be more than grammatically correct. They need to be designed to slip effortlessly into the mind of your reader. This means chopping overlong sentences and making sure the word order is clear and unambiguous.

Yes, editing might seem like a chore, but it can be the difference between sparkling communication success and a face full of pie.

First published . Last updated 1 Aug 2019. Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Newcastle and its employees.

About Tony Spencer-Smith

Tony Spencer-Smith loves words. He has worked with them all his life – ever since he published his own magazine while still in primary school. He moved on to become a prominent journalist, an award-winning novelist and a corporate writer and editor. In his training, he inspires others to share his enthusiasm for the power of language. Tony is one of Australia’s top corporate writing and editing trainers. In over a decade he has helped thousands of people from blue chip companies, government and not-for-profit organisations to upgrade their communication skills.

The broad experience he brings to his training includes being Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest magazine in both Australia and South Africa; a senior newspaper journalist; and a corporate editorial expert who has written speeches, brochures, reports, websites and internal communications for top clients.

His children’s novel The Man Who Snarled at Flowers won the biggest literary prize in South Africa, while his latest book The Essentials of Great Writing was published in Australia in 2009.

Trainees leave Tony’s classes with a comprehensive set of writing and editing skills to raise their writing to the next level.

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