How to Be a Better Edit-er

How to Be a Better Edit-er

Save yourself from frustration and budget blow-out during the editing process

No matter how carefully a document is originally written and reviewed before layout, after it is formatted by the graphic designer — styles applied, pagination established and graphic elements added — clients will almost always see things that they would like to change. Sometimes these edits will be formatting issues; many times they will be changes to content.

All publication projects have a deadline, and many contracts will specify a certain number of revisions within the scope before additional charges kick in. Without an understanding of the revision process and the best ways to communicate edits to the designer, clients can waste an inordinate amount of time and money taking a document through multiple rounds of revisions. We hope that by following the suggestions below you can prevent the editing-review stage from negatively impacting your project's timeline or budget.

Implementing edits takes time

Each time a group of edits is made the designer must open the file and application, save the file as a new version, in a new folder, complete the edits, save the revisions, generate a new PDF(s) for review, and sometimes write up an explanation of how the edits impacted the document. The designer will follow this same process whether three edits are needed or 30, and you can make this process significantly more efficient if you compile a complete list of edits from all reviewers rather than giving your designer random edits here and there. Think of requesting edits that will make the next version the final one, and resist the temptation to do a quick run-through to revise big things first and catch the fine details later.

How to communicate edits to your designer

The two things that can make it easier for your designer to implement your edits are 1) clearly indicate where in the document to make the change and 2) organize your list so that edits are grouped in a logical order. There are several ways you can share your list of edits with your designer:

  1. Any edits that need to be made throughout an entire document (i.e. a change to the spelling of a name) can be labeled as "global" and explained only once. For example, you do not need to indicate each individual instance where the spelling for the name "John" should be changed to "Jon."
  2. Writing up your list of edits in text doc or in the body of an email is fine. Just be consistent and clear and list the edits in the order in which they occur in the design.
  3. When possible write out the sentence or word phrase exactly as you would like it to appear. Including the entire sentence allows the designer to find the right place quickly by copying and pasting the wrong wording into the find/change tool (InDesign has an extremely complex and powerful find/change feature) and then copy-pasting in the entire correct sentence, including punctuation. Okay: Page 3, second paragraph, third line, add the word "thought" between "he" and "saw." Better: Page 3, second paragraph, third line, change, "He saw the dog run over the hill.", to "He thought he saw the dog run over the hill." Changing the text to red (or any other color you might choose) is a great way to indicate to the designer where the edit occurs in the sentence.
  4. A spreadsheet with the first column established as "Page Number" is another good way to organize your list of edits.
  5. The comments tool in an Acrobat Reader is useful for adding "sticky notes" to a PDF document to clearly show exactly where changes need to be made. If you're particularly savvy with the editing tools in Acrobat, you can go so far as to input proofreader notations throughout. Sometimes clients will provide a commented PDF in addition to a written list in a text doc, spreadsheet or email and this can be very helpful (though often not necessary).
  6. Do not send edits to your designer that do not have a clear action. If your edit ends in a question mark, then it is not an edit. At that point it is an internal discussion that should be resolved first before bringing it to your designer's attention.

A Word of Caution: The editing process is for fine-tuning an already successful design solution. You cannot edit your way into a new design concept. Doing so will actually lead to greater inefficiency and short-change you from the benefit of professional guidance. If your concern is that the overall design may be missing the mark, the best thing to do is to have a conversation with your designer right away.