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5 Ways to Edit Business Documents

Even though all documentation needs to be revised at least once, for business critical documents, you need to revise your material in detail several times. Ideally, you should revise documents five separate times: each time you read it, adopt a different reviewer's view and examine different areas.

Revision 1. Content and Emphasis

Identify what information is missing. Remove sections that don't alter the overall meaning of the document. Check that you have emphasized the important ideas, and de-emphasized the lesser ones. If you are under tight deadlines and can only give it one revision, check for content and emphasis.


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Revision 2. Clarity

If you have time for two passes, check for clarity next. Study if the organization is logical, and that it helps the reader to understand the content. Keep sentences straightforward and use words understandable to the reader. Ensure that the transition from one section to the next is effective.

Revision 3. Correctness

In the third pass, look for grammar, word choice, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure problems.

Revision 4. Brevity

Then shorten wordy phrases, eliminate unnecessary sentences, combine or delete unimportant ideas. Tighten up the text.

Revision 5. Style

The last revision is to work on style. In technical writing style is not much of an issue as the company Style Guide often prescribes the writing style. If you can use your own voice, be aware of your style and make sure it works for the piece you're writing.

And then proofread!

Proofreading means rechecking the facts every time content moves from one production phase to another.

For example, if you produce it in Microsoft Word and import it into Adobe PageMaker, conversion and text flow problems will arise. (Believe me, they will!).

These problems are usually caused by differences in font sets, unrecognized automatic functions, and other software differences.

When proofreading, look out for

  • Missing content, such as last lines in paragraphs, missing last paragraphs in a column, and missing words at the ends of lines
  • Extra hyphens and spaces inserted in odd places
  • Improperly converted symbols
  • Incorrect functions, such as figure/page numbering, running headers, or cross referencing
  • Font substitutions
  • Spelling errors that spell checkers don't find, such as form instead of from
  • Faulty alignment, especially in tables and in text associated with graphics
  • Missing and corrupt graphics.
  • Check graphics that display on the screen, but don't print out

Lastly, ask an experienced person to look at it. Your colleague will probably see things that may have escaped you.

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