The Beginners Guide to Reviewing and Editing

Reviewing and Editing is an important part of the Technical writing process. No writing is complete without it being reviewed and/or edited.

As a novice Technical Writer, my first few tasks were to edit and review documents.My biggest challenge then, was to know the difference between editing and reviewing. You may ask, “is it not self-explanatory?” My thought exactly; that is, before I started off reviewing a document, over shot time by editing it, ended up missing my deadline and finally learnt two important lessons.

Lesson number 1: Know the scope of your work


Never start your work without knowing the exact limits of your work. By limits I mean:

  • What you can do
  • What you need not do but can do if time permits
  • What you should not do

People crave for limits. limits are something that gives a logical conclusion to any task. Without limits and restriction no work will ever truly get done.

“What you need not do but can do if time permits?”, is the grey area in the editing and reviewing world. It shows your dedication and the extra bit you want to put in your work. But how far is too far? Trying to find that out is when I learnt my

Lesson number 2: Estimate your work

Define timelines for your work.It gets easier when you know the scope of your work. You will learn more about defining your scope of the work in the following section. When you define timelines it is easier for you to decide on the ‘must do’ factors and ‘can do’ factors.  Your work will reflect consistency and quality when you follow the timelines based on your scope of work.

What is Reviewing and Editing?

  • Reviewing: According to the Oxford dictionary Review is a formal assessment of something with the intention of instituting change if necessary”. In simple words it means you find mistakes in the document and let the author know about it. Refer my article on “Basic tips to review a Technical Document” to know more about the ‘must do’ review steps on a Technical document.4360118369_31828ef58f
  • Editing: According to the Oxford dictionary Edit is to prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it” . It means you do the necessary changes in the document and let the author know about it. If you notice, editing is very similar to reviewing but the accountability of making changes falls on you thus changing the scope and timeline of your work.

How to define the scope?
Consider the following factors:

  1. Criticality: Criticality depends on the audience and the number of times the review is done. If the post review document goes to the end-user, it is a highly critical document. A zero-error document must be produced. If the document can afford a few interim reviews as in most cases of product documentation then it is non-critical but important document.
  2. Priority: Does the author need the reviewed document within hours or within days? Prioritize the document review based on the hours or days you need to finish the quality check. Remember most reviewers will be handling more than one project at a time, prioritizing is a boon for such busy bees. Time estimation is a part of prioritizing.
  3. Number of Pages/Slides/Words: You cannot define the scope or estimate time line unless you know how much content you need to review. Check out the numbers of pages/slides/words or whichever works for you to arrive at a logical conclusion about the scope of your work.

To do the best in your Reviews:

  • Decide either to edit or review the document based on the scope and time estimates
  • Convey the scope and timelines to the Author thus maintaining a transparent channel of feedback and team work.
  • Finish your work within the deadline and send the document back to the Author, so that he can finish incorporating the feedback within his deadline. Remember it’s all about team work.

These are my tips for entry-level Technical writers who will at some point or the other do editing and reviewing of their own.

You feel there is much more to do before you begin Reviewing or Editing? Then, feel free to share your list of pre-editing and pre-reviewing “must do’s” with me.

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1 thought on “The Beginners Guide to Reviewing and Editing”

  1. You have defined the difference between reviewing and editing very nicely.
    While writing, writers go with the flow, without being much bothered about standards and guidelines. However, they do so to put all the important piece of information together, which is the motto of writing. Then comes the roles of an Editor and a Reviewer. An Editor modifies the document for final release and a Reviewer evaluate it for quality. These two processes are significant aspects for publication of a document. Thus, it is really important to understand the scope and prioritize the limits of these two roles.
    Nicely written 🙂

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