Bringing It All Together
The Importance of Editing
In Unit 7, the importance of revising, rewriting, and reversioning is discussed, including some strategies for helping students understand that such work is not repetitive, but an essential aspect of the writing process. These aspects of changing and polishing writing are part of the broader editing process that becomes increasingly important as students advance their literacy skills. Editing is a much bigger and more important aspect of literacy development than simply revising.
There are different forms of editing, such as copyediting, which focuses on correcting spelling, punctuation, grammar, and to a limited extent word choice. But here, the focus is on substantial editing, which can play a very important and underappreciated role in the creative process of writing. In substantial editing, an editor may make suggestions for moving blocks of text, for large deletions or editions, and may even provide extensive rewriting along with in-depth comments. The role of substantial editing is extremely important in the publishing of nonfiction, including textbooks; the production of media, such as radio, television, and films; and even for fiction in print and media. Many people would be surprised at how radically good editing can change and improve a piece of work. Students need to learn to welcome editing as well as develop editing skills that they will apply to the work of their peers and even to published material.
Apply: Rewriting a passage (perhaps from the textbook) and putting it into their own words can be a useful literacy exercise for students. However, consider taking such an exercise to the next level. Challenge students to rewrite a published passage not by re-creating it in their own words but by editing it with the explicit goal of improving its clarity. Can they improve its flow? Maybe shorten the passage? It’s okay if they don’t manage to improve the text. The effort will improve their appreciation for reading and writing and reinforce how much choice there is in the craft of writing.
Rigorous editing is central to good scientific writing. Even though most scientific writing has a primary author, is a collaborative process that typically includes a surprising number of editors. These are peer scientists both junior and more senior than the author, close colleagues, and individuals who are less familiar with the content. Substantial editing may include suggestions to carry out additional experiments, or comments that conclusions have been reached in error or are insufficiently supported.
Students too often experience editing as the grading of their papers, with marks of things they’ve done wrong, so it is important to use peer feedback and rewriting to teach students to embrace the process. Some novice writers may uncritically accept all editorial feedback, which is a natural response to having the writing graded. However, simply accepting all the changes of all editors actually undermines the value of the editorial process. A writer needs to learn how to adjudicate the various editorial inputs they receive and not allow editorial feedback to take away from the ownership of and responsibility for their writing. Other writers resist the editorial process, feeling that it impinges on or even appropriates their creativity. However much a writer may complain about or resist the editorial process, in the end, few professional writers, perhaps particularly in science, would deny its value and importance for honing the clarity of their writing.