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The Old Editor's macro checklist

Pilots use checklists before they take off. Surgeons use checklists before they operate. Checklists are a good idea, and copy editors might well benefit from them.

Mignon Fogarty, the indefatigable Grammar Girl, has introduced a checklist for editors that you are well advised to take into consideration. 

But The Old Editor fears that in your attention to individual trees you might lose your way in the forest. Thus, in addition to Grammar Girl's micro-editing checklist, you might benefit from The Old Editor's macro-editing checklist. 

 

FOCUS

If the opening is a summary paragraph, does it say one thing clearly and directly? 

If the opening is an introduction leading to a summary paragraph, is the opening short? Does it fit the subject? Does the summary paragraph say one thing clearly and directly? 

Does the rest of the article match the opening? Are there elements in the opening that are not developed in the article? 

 

STRUCTURE

Is the structure of the article (narrative, expository, inverted pyramid, etc.) appropriate for the subject and occasion? 

 

ORGANIZATION

Does the article get to the point immediately, without throat-clearing and tedious exposition?

If you made an outline of the article, would it show a series of subtopics clearly related to the focus? Do you see transitions from one subtopic to the next?  

Is background information integrated smoothly, placed where the reader will most require it?

If the article is chronological, is the reader clearly oriented in space and time at every point? 

Does the article conclude merely than trailing off? Does the conclusion in some way reflect the elements of the opening so that the reader is left with a sense of completion?

How much better would it be if it were shorter?

 

CREDIBILITY

Does the article have more than one source? 

Are sources clearly identified? Is evidence of their credibility presented?

Does the reader see clearly where each statement of fact in the article derives from? 

Does the article make unsupported assertions? 

 

TONE

Is the tone (serious, light, personal, impersonal, formal, conversational, colloquial) appropriate for the subject the occasion, the publication, and the audience? 

Are metaphors apt and not belabored? 

Is ornamental language present to illuminate the subject or to show that the author can write up a storm? 

Is the level of abstraction excessive? Are concrete examples presented? 

Are unfamiliar terms clear, either explained or established in context?

Has wordiness been pruned?

 

LEGAL AND ETHICAL CONCERNS

Is any person in the article accused of illegal or improper behavior? If so, are the accusations supported by privileged or otherwise protected information?

Is there any evidence of plagiarism or fabrication? 

Is private information about a subject presented wantonly?


Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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