Write On!, 0221 WYBJ, Vol. 43 No. 1. 58

AuthorJohn H. Ridge, J.D., Ph.D., Fort Collins, Colorado
PositionVol. 43 1 Pg. 58

Write On!

Vol. 43 No. 1 Pg. 58

Wyoming Bar Journal

February, 2021

Developing Effective Editing Skills: Part 1

John H. Ridge, J.D., Ph.D., Fort Collins, Colorado

Editing is not writing. They are separate and distinct tasks requiring separate and distinct skill sets, but both are essential to producing high quality legal writings. While law schools do a wonderful job at teaching legal writing, lawyers are rarely taught how to effectively edit another lawyer’s written product. In this series of articles, we will focus on developing effective editing skills. Tis article introduces the six stages of effective editing, addresses some introductory concepts, and discusses the first stage. Other articles following this one will address the remaining five stages.

The Six Stages of Effective Editing

There are six stages to effective editing, which are summarized here:

  1. Familiarization: In this stage, an editor reads the writing and talks to the author in order to become familiar with the purpose of the writing, the topic, the applicable law, and the facts.

  2. Organizational Editing: Organizational editing focuses on the general structure of the writing, the organization of the sections, paragraphs, and sentences, and the reasonableness of the arguments and explanations.

  3. Stylistic Editing: In this stage, an editor examines each section, paragraph, and sentence to improve clarity and increase conciseness. Tis includes reviewing paragraph and sentence length, looking for the correct use of topic sentences and transition phrases, removing unneeded words and parenthetical statements, eliminating legal jargon, and ensuring that legal standards and authorities are correctly applied.

  4. Grammatical Editing: Grammatical editing is exactly what the phrase suggests, editing the grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

  5. Proofreading: In this stage, an editor looks for mistakes that have slipped through the cracks, such as misapplied fonts, or the use of the word “trail” when the writer is referring to a court “trial.”

  6. Rule Compliance: Lastly, an editor conducts a final review to ensure that the writing complies with all the applicable rules, including drafting and citation rules.

    Effective Editors Work in Stages

    Effective editors read through a writing multiple times. The six stages of editing are designed to help editors focus on a related set of tasks during each reading, thereby...

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