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The editing process: 17 steps to a finished paper and happy client

Here’s a 17-step process for editing a document. Obviously, many of the stages can be broken down into more detail. This list, however, is a simple reminder that I keep on my desktop to guide me through each editing job.

  1. Create a folder in the computer for all of this project’s files.
  2. Create a job in QuickBooks under this client if it’s an existing one; create a new client profile and job if the client is a new one.
  3. Create an invoice to track the hours worked.
  4. Turn on Microsoft Word’s track changes in the document (Tools > Track Changes > Highlight and Changes > Track changes while editing; some editors also select Highlight changes on screen, but I find it hard to read a document when the changes are visible).
  5. Make sure there is just one space between sentences and not two.
  6. Edit the body of the document (the specifics of this step vary based on the document).
  7. Compare the references section with the in-text citations; look for multiple publications from an author in the same year and edit the citations and reference to differentiate between them.
  8. Edit your queries to the client to make sure he or she will understand them.
  9. Review the acronym list you created while editing and add it to the document.
  10. Run a spell check to catch any words missed while editing.
  11. Update the table of contents and ensure it is consistent with the headers that are in the text.
  12. Update any other tables (such as a table of figures or illustrations) and ensure it is consistent with the headers that are in the text.
  13. Select Highlight changes on the screen (Tools > Track Changes > Highlight and Changes) so the client won’t wonder if you forgot to use track changes.
  14. Return the document to the client. Call him or her to make sure he or she received the e-mail—corporate e-mail filters have been known to kill many an e-mail with a large document attached.
  15. Follow up with the client to make sure he or she is happy and has no further questions.
  16. Submit the invoice and add an action in your calendar to follow up on its status once it is past due.
  17. Thank the client once payment is received.

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