word of the week: edit

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word edit originates from French “éditer” and Latin “editus”. The original meaning from 1793 was to “supervise for publication”, and the later meaning “to make revisions to a manuscript” came about in 1885. It is closely related to the word edition, first observed in the 15th century, meaning “the act of publishing”.

Similarly, the word editor originally meant “one who puts forth”, “to bring forth, produce”. It appears as in the modern sense of preparing manuscripts for publication in 1712, and specifically for newspaper production in 1803.

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the first known use of the word edit as it relates to modern meaning and usage is 1955.

Since then, editing has evolved into a multi-faceted business all of its own, with several different types of editing services available.

methods of editing

Editing can be broken down into four major areas:

  • structural
  • stylistic
  • copyediting
  • proofreading

structural editing

This level of editing is the “big picture” level and includes reorganizing the text to ensure clarity and flow of the document. The editor may move paragraphs and whole chapters while using a table of contents to outline the new structure.

stylistic editing

Editing for style includes improving word choices to provide clarity and meaning, re-writing sentences, eliminating wordiness, and making sure that the text flows well.


Copyediting focuses on grammar, spelling, punctuation, as well as, consistency, and accuracy of data and tables.


This is the final stage of editing before publication. The proofreader looks for spelling errors and typos, as well as ensuring that all relevant changes have been inserted by the author. The proofreader also checks for errors in the layout of the text for final publication.

wearing the right hat

The complexity that editing has taken on in the modern world really highlights the fact that writing is not an easy task. As a writer, I am often paralysed by the need to edit as I go, resulting in a bigger mess than I started with, and lower productivity.

A strategy that I have used over the years, is to remember which hat I am wearing. I have also worked as a graphic designer, and although you are working with text, you cannot be an editor and a designer at the same time. I had to separate my roles and wear one hat at a time. As a writer, I write. When I’m editing, that’s all I focus on. And when I design, well… you get the picture.

Write on! Then edit.