Becoming a better editor through reading

Becoming a better editor through reading

November 2, 2017 By Kelly Lauturner Resources

I spend the majority of my workday copy editing. It’s a collection of nips and tucks here and there in the world of marketing catalogs.

There is a prescribed formula I follow. Some common edits include uniform item names, moving material descriptions, and swapping the size measurements so the height is always first. The latter rule works unless the item is a banner, and then we need to see the length first.

It takes a set of strong eyes and patience to review multiple items and pages against each other. Sometimes I feel like I’m too comfortable with one style of editing and I’m not using all my skills. The difficult part of my day becomes how to keep evolving my abilities.

Kelly Lauturner

There are always classes and seminars, as well word searches and crossword puzzles. But the number one way I keep my purple editing pen fresh (the color red reminds me of teachers grading tests), is to read.

Most adults can do this. Below, I’ll share a couple of the ways I use this advantageous skill to increase my writing and editing abilities. 

As a rule, I don’t discriminate what I read. On any given week, I can be found reading almost everything, from blogs to children’s books and beyond. I try to keep two different types of books around at any time. My car and/or nightstand usually hold a piece of fiction that I’m invested in and a second non-fiction book of memoirs or funny stories to pass the time. I also will read a magazine or two a week to keep updated on current events and culture.

I further expand my exposure to articles in my local paper, as well as pieces in The New York Times. I constantly am challenging myself to learn something new, and to read in print and online formats.

As a consumer and healthy eating nut, I’m often reading packages and nutritional information. I highly encourage everyone to do this, if just to be exposed to new words. In my experience, a lot of products look similar but can contain different ingredients. I’m always checking ingredients to avoid having allergic reactions with soybeans, which are in a lot of items to varying degrees.

When I’m looking to test my patience, I read recipes and instructions. Both of those teach the discipline I sometimes lack as a reader and editor. Recipes are especially hard because I always want to jump ahead to the next step, or combine directions so I can combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and all of the wet in another bowl at the same time. Usually by step 5, I see a valid reason for doing each piece at a particular time.

Cooking, like reading, always teaches me something new that I can put back into my editing, even if it’s as simple as breaking down instructions into smaller pieces. 

Fill 7

On any given week, I can be found reading almost everything, from blogs to children’s books and beyond. I try to keep two different types of books around at any time.

Fill 7

My second tip for becoming a stronger editor is to read out loud.

I appreciate the written word, but I believe the read word is equally as powerful. This passion comes both from my background in theater and being read to as a child by my parents and by Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton. Intonation plays a big role in meaning and audience impression.

I believe in the importance of reading stage directions, which are often glossed over unless in the context of a staged reading. I find these directions are the heart of any scene because of the insane amount of physical action. The impact of a story or play is not complete unless the directions are made clear and the words are properly orated.

Like any great author, a great reader learns the most when putting the text in his or her own words. As a reader, I always pause to reflect on the total impact. This is crucial when I watch TV. I like to watch shows with the closed captions turned on. This puts the dialogue right in front and offers a lot of clarity in scenes where the actors are low talkers. A majorly visual medium can become a multimedia experience.

I think about the overall meaning of the words that were chosen for the script and even overanalyze the particular word combinations. It sounds a bit obsessive, but this analysis has led to some nerdy dinner party conversations and has made me go back and re-think what I’ve written for this particular piece about 10 times. 

Reading has become an integral part of both my writing and editing processes. When I’m reading, I’m reminded to put emotion into my work and to paint the picture for all of the senses.  Any time I can read a passage back to myself or read a recipe card, I become a well-rounded person and a desirable audience member for a multitude of authors. 

Kelly Lauturner joined ACES at the beginning of 2017. She is a catalog proofreader and production coordinator for Amscan Inc., a Party City Company. Kelly blogs about topics including television, pop culture, health, fashion and music at See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Read No Evil. Kelly often encourages her book club to buckle down and choose the next book. 

Header photo: Prasanna Kumar/

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