How to edit that report when pressed for time

In this tutorial we look at how to edit any document. Before we start: what does it mean to edit a business document?

Most people think an edit means:

  • Spellchecking for typos
  • How it looks and feels
  • Grammar (sometimes)

Creating a checklist

edit Instead, create a checklist and review different aspects of the document one by one.

For example, start with the spelling, finish that, next check the grammar, finish that, then check the format. Let’s start with the spelling.

  1. Spelling – Is the entire document written in the same language, eg has any UK English entered into the final draft? To fix this, select the document (Ctrl + A) and double-click on the Language option at the end of the screen, then select your language.What sometimes happens is that if you cut and paste between documents you import text with different language settings. This confuses the spell checker. Applying the same language to the entire document ensure everything is correct.
  2. Grammar – While this tool is not perfect, make sure the Grammar check box is also selected. It won’t catch everything but it does offer one line of defense.
  3. Format – This means that the document has been formatted to the correct style guidelines. For example, are all page margins, numbering, and headings correct?
  4. Headers and Footers – Are the page numbers in the correct sequence in the footers? Is the same information displayed in every footer? Sometimes, if you introduce a page break, you may lose the connection to the previous pages. This means that the page numbering may restart at 1. If so, double-click in the footer, select the option you want to change, and click Restart.
  5. Logic and Meaning – Does the narrative run smoothly from one section to the next? It’s easy to miss this if you’re writing in a hurry, as part of a team, gathering text from others, or have to stop/start to add new material.
    If this happens, you’re unlikely to see breaks in the narrative or significant changes in the tone or ‘voice’. These need to be adjusted before going to production. Another tip is to start at the end of the document and work back to the top.
    It forces you to pay attention to each line and not get carried along by the flow of the text.
  6. Image – There’s a few things to look out for with images. Is this the correct image? Sounds obvious but if you’re working with material someone else passed to you, it may not be correct. Don’t assume they got it right! Do you have an original of the image, for example, as a JPG? Why? You might be able to convert this to a different, more appropriate format, or change the resolution if necessary.
  7. Image Typos – If you have the original image, make sure that any typos on the image itself are corrected. Also, make sure that red underlines used to highlight  typos are removed. These often appear in technical documentation. To resolve this, add the words to your dictionary.
  8. Image Resizing – If you import the image, and want to change the size, don’t manually resize it. Instead, right-click on the image, choose Size and Position, and adjust the settings. This ensures that the image is adjusted correctly and that the correct proportions are applied.
  9. Production – When it’s finished, for example, you create a PDF, you need to perform another review. This time look for the same issues in the PDF. For example, are the images, footers, and margins correct? Are variables applied correctly?
    After this, check that settings specific to the PDF are correct, for example, is the correct author’s name displayed in the properties? Does the PDF open at 100%? Are the bookmarks in the left navigation pane in the correct sequence? Are all page sizes correct? Can the PDF file size be reduced without reducing the quality of the file.

The mistake is to try to do ALL of this at the same time.

Break the review process into separate mini tasks. This is much more effective, especially when editing long documents. Again, you can’t and shouldn’t do the entire edit in one sitting. Make a list – check everything twice!

Photo: Joanna Penn

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