How a fresh pair of eyes can help get your document unstuck

For two recent projects, my task as an editor was to help get a publication over the finishing line. In both cases, the document was already in the form of a complete draft when I got involved, but needed a considerable amount of work to get it to the point where it could be published. And in both cases the document owner had taken it as far as he or she could – they needed a fresh set of eyes and some fresh thinking.

(I struggled to find an image for this post, but when it comes to getting things unstuck, Oliver Jeffers is a good reference!)

If you feel like you’re blocked on a publication, bringing in someone who is seeing the text for the first time is a great way to get unstuck. This stage comes before copy editing and proofreading – it’s not someone to correct grammar and spelling errors who is required. Rather it’s a substantive editor who will interrogate the content, check whether the structure makes sense, spot where something that is clear to the author(s) may not be so clear to the reader, and so on.

In both recent examples, the text had been authored by several different people over an extended period of time, each working on his or her own section of the document. This can naturally make for a very disjointed publication. Bringing consistency with regard to style, tone, the depth of the information, etc. is often best done by someone who has not previously been involved with the document. In fact, it can even help if the subject matter is not familiar to the editor. One of those recent jobs was my first for that client and I was able to challenge assumptions that may not have been so obvious to those working in the sector.

It’s very easy to get bogged down with a long report or proposal. If you can no longer see the forest for the trees, an external editor might be just what’s needed to take a wider view and ensure that the end result is as good as it can be. (And I happen to know one who may well be available to work on your document. Get in touch!)