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Editing as coaching

Editing can be the single most influential tool to help a writer improve, but this needs to be done in a specific way to be effective.

Feedback needs to be

  • Verbose: not just a fix, but a longer explanation of reasoning behind the fix and context to help the writer not make the same mistake in future
  • Timely: the writer needs to get the feedback as soon as possible, while their thought process is still active and they combine this with the feedback.
  • Personalised: the writer and editor need to have interacted before and formed a professional relationship
  • Supportive: the writer needs to want to improve and not feel attacked or annoyed by the feedback.
  • Selective: the feedback needs to be in the context of the writer's overall skill level. It's pointless to spend a paragraph explaining the something that the writer already knows but just didn't notice this one time. Similarly, it's pointless to spend a paragraph explaining something fairly nuanced and advanced when the writer is still making more basic mistakes. The editor should 'choose their battles' very carefully.

Feedback can be given in various ways, depending on the extent and type.

  • Comments and/or edit suggestions - for smaller changes, making a suggested change and adding 2-3 sentences explaining the reasoning for the change is often sufficient.
  • Recorded video - sometimes it's easier for the editor to share their screen and talk about their thoughts while editing the article
  • 1:1 meeting - to allow the writer to also ask for more context or clarifications as this often is more memorable for the writer.