Editing for Content: Definition & Concept

Learn what editing for content means and how it’s different from editing for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Review the list of things to look for in a content edit. Read the lesson, and then take the quiz to test your new knowledge.

Editing for Content

After you’ve finished writing your essay, you already know that you should edit it before submitting it for a grade. Many students try to make all corrections in one step, but it’s best to approach it in two stages. One stage is the copy editing (spelling, grammar, etc.) and the other stage is editing for content. In its most basic terms, ‘editing for content’ is making sure you’ve made your point effectively, accurately and clearly.

Here’s a breakdown of what you should look for when editing for content:

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1. An interesting opening paragraph that engages the reader and states your main idea.

2. Coherence. Are your arguments and conclusions logical?

3. Does each paragraph have a topic sentence?

4. Include definitions for terms that might not be understood by the reader.

5. Consistency. Do you remain focused on your main idea, or thesis? Are there areas where you’ve gone on tangents, or made points that contradict your thesis?

6. Fact-checking. Have you made unsupportable claims? Are there areas that need outside sources and evidence? If so, you’ll need to put more time into your research.

7. Citations for quotes and paraphrases. Any material borrowed from an outside source should include an in-text citation in the formatting style required by your professor.

8. Over-use of quotes and paraphrases. Essays that include research and peer-reviewed articles as evidence should not be overwhelmed by the quotes and ideas of your sources. Your instructor might have a preference for how much of your paper can consist of outside sources, but generally it should not be more than 20%.

9. Style. Do your sentences have a varied structure (short, long, simple, complex, etc.)? Have you used an informal tone or graphics that distract from your message? For example, have you used slang, colorful fonts, or text-message style language? Be sure to follow the guidelines of the formatting style your instructor has assigned for you.

10. A conclusion that restates the main idea, without repeating it word for word.

Trust the Process

After you’ve read through your document for these content-related points above, you can go to the next stage which is checking spelling, punctuation, grammar, capitalization and sentence structure (sentence fragments and run-ons). You’ll be tempted to correct these errors in the content editing stage, but try not to. Focus on one thing at time–content editing, then copy-editing–to save time.

Learning Outcomes

Finishing this lesson should give you the information and confidence to:

  • Identify what editing for content means
  • Recall and interpret the ten points in proper content editing
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