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Editing Skills

As the saying goes, behind every good writer is a great editor. Editors do everything from pitch story ideas to
fix commas, and they are a crucial resource for reporters. There are generally multiple levels of editors that
stories must pass through before they can be published, and each editor will look for different things
whether its punctuation errors, awkward wording or story structure. Editors have different responsibilities
depending on the size of the staff of a publication. Editors will often manage everything from design to
proofreading. At the high school level and at some publications, editors will get involved much earlier on in
the reporting process. They help come up with story ideas and to decide on specific aspects of a topic to
expound upon.
Try this copy editing quiz (from Inside Reporting: A Practical Guide to the Craft of Journalism by Tim
Harrower) to see if youre ready to take on a news desk!

Generally editors will
Before writing the story
1) Assign the story to a reporter who has the necessary skills or background to do the story well.
2) Craft an angle for the story. Stories should be focused and unique in their approach to a topic, and an editor
will help the reporter get there.
3) Estimate how long the story should be.
4) Decide what additional content will run with a story, whether its a sidebar with additional facts, art or an
While writing the story
1) Provide relevant new information to the story as it takes place.
2) Encourage the reporter to write as quickly as possible while still maintaining quality and accuracy.
3) Correct mistakes as they see them.
4) Keep the reporter in the loop about layout design changes that might affect the story.
After writing the story
1) Edit the content by rearranging the story structure, asking for additional reporting, or cutting unnecessary
information to make sure the story flows and is easy to read.
2) Copy edit, which refers to looking for grammatical, punctuation, spelling and style errors.
3) Assign follow-up stories.
This content has been adapted from Inside Reporting: A Practical Guide to the Craft of Journalism by Tim
Editing Tips
10 tips to edit with the goals of consistency, clarity and accuracy
20 tips from newspaper style guides
ABCs of copy editing from Appalachian State University
5 writing tips from newspaper editors
25 editing tips for your writers toolbox
Advice for student newspaper editors from The Washington Post
Associated Press Style Basics from Journalists Resource
Style Overview from Journalists Resource
Acronyms from Journalists Resource
Editing Resources offers resources for editing professors, students and working professionals to help strengthen
the craft of editing and support the work of editors.
The Editors Desk, a blog about writing and editing with an emphasis on the newspaper copy desk
The Editors Desk chapter from Reuters Handbook of Journalism, a blog devoted to all things editing.
Teaching activities on copy editing from UMass Amhersts writing program